Thursday, November 3, 2011

The Practice of Gratitude and Thankfulness

The very first post I wrote on this blog was entitled "The Thankfulness Project" (check it out here). On Thanksgiving we focus on what we're thankful for, but after the day is over and we're consuming our copious amounts of delicious leftovers, we easily forget to continue living a life of gratitude. The practice of gratitude and daily thankfulness is incredibly healthy for us, both physically and mentally.

I recently stumbled across an article entitled "Boost Your Health With A Dose Of Gratitude". In the article, the author outlined a number of benefits that the practice of thankfulness has on our lives:
  • It helps decrease our stress levels: The article suggests that: "Gratitude research is beginning to suggest that feelings of thankfulness have tremendous positive value in helping people cope with daily problems, especially stress," Because stress accounts for 80-90% of all physical illness, when we choose to actively combat our stress, we help decrease our likelihood to get sick. 
  • Regularly thankful people are more likely to engage in self care behaviors
  • Immune Buster: When we are thankful, we have a more optimistic view on our life. The article suggests that: "Optimism also has a positive health impact on people with compromised health. In separate studies, patients confronting AIDS, as well as those preparing to undergo surgery, had better health outcomes when they maintained attitudes of optimism."
In another article on CNN, they outlined a few other benefits of thankfulness: 
University of California at Davis researchers found that practicing gratitude can lower your blood pressure and make you feel less hostile. Grateful people are less angry, less negative and usually look for the cup half full. Studies by Cornell University researchers have shown that those who are thankful appear to have lower risks of developing phobias, alcoholism, even depression. They even have stronger immune systems.

That sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? Are you convinced yet that the practice of thankfulness is beneficial to your life? Obviously it's not enough to realize that we need Thankfulness in life to be healthy. We need to take it one step further and develop a regular practice of gratitude in life. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Create a Thankfulness Journal: Keep a notebook on your nightstand and write it in it every morning or evening. Can you think of 5 things every day that you are thankful for? These can be anything "having a bed to sleep in" to "a promotion at work" or "my child didn't wake me up at all last night". When we start to develop this practice, we automatically start looking for things throughout the day to put on our list. This helps us develop mindfulness with gratitude. 
  • Choose 1 day a week to write a quick note or email to someone who you feel thankful for: It doesn't have to be long, but expressing our thanks to someone is healthy. Again, it doesn't have to be something huge. Maybe a co-worker picked up coffee for you on a tough day! Take time to write a few quick sentences to let them know how much you appreciated it!
  • Challenge the Cognitive Distortions in Life: Distorted thinking will change your positive thoughts to negative and irrational thinking. This steals joy and gratitude from our lives. Learn to Challenge and Change your Distorted thoughts
  • Develop a Gratitude Practice at Dinner Each Night: As a family, have each member around the table list one or two things they are thankful for from the day. This will allow each member to hear a number of positive aspects of the day, and will get children in the practice of gratitude from a young age. 
This is what it comes to. If you don't have a practice of gratitude in life, what's the alternative? If you aren't focusing on gratitude and the positive in life, what are you focusing on in life? How does this affect your mood, your relationships, and your overall health?

I challenge you to start a daily practice of gratitude in life. Develop a Thankfulness Project routine in life to help each member in your family increase their overall health and wellness. It's something quick and easy to do that yields great results. Again, what's the alternative?

Now it's your turn:
Do you have a regular practice of gratitude in life? If you do, what steps do you take? If not- what has led to you not practicing this regularly? What is one thing you could commit to this month that will lead to developing a practice of gratitude? 

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the wonderful reminders. I do this already, but your post has encouraged me to do more of it!