Give the Gift of Gratitude to Yourself
Making a point of looking for the positive things in life cultivates gratitude. Not only does gratitude help diffuse negative thought patterns and behaviors, it also activates many positive physical and mental health benefits.
An ongoing practice of gratitude can create side effects such as appreciation, patience, empathy and humility, as well as create resilience that can help overcome stressful or difficult situations.
Studies are showing that practicing gratitude has other amazing health benefits, such as reducing body inflammation and improving sleep, blood pressure, total cholesterol and blood sugar. Gratitude rewires the pathways in the brain, boosting levels of dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin – the happy hormones.
There are many creative ways to cultivate gratitude. Taking a moment at the end of each day to list a few things one is grateful for in a gratitude journal is shown to improve well-being and creates a way to reflect back on blessings.
Creating a gratitude jar is a fun practice for the entire family. On slips of paper, household members jot down things they are grateful for and toss the paper in the jar. At the end of each week, month or even at the end of the year, the family reviews them together. Like a journal, remembering all the blessings that came along brings a second wave of gratitude. A bonus to this exercise is that gratitude is shared.
Starting or joining a gratitude challenge on social media creates accountability, but also camaraderie. It’s inspiring to see what friends and family are grateful for each day.
Celeste McNeil gave her son Caleb (12) a clicker, similar to what baseball umpires use to track pitch count, to track positive thoughts. “It helps me put into perspective just how much good happens all the time,” Caleb shared.
Resident Amy Murphy creates a list of things she is grateful for while brushing her teeth. “I work on cultivating what I call an ‘everyday grateful heart and mind,’” Murphy said. She expresses gratitude for things like how the coffee made it to her cup as she takes her first sip. When going for a walk and before the headphones go into her ears, Murphy added, “I take a moment to notice and appreciate nature. It just takes a second to be mindful and grateful when you practice it along with your everyday activities.”
Sharing gratitude with others strengthens relationships, so be sure to let others know when they have done something that is appreciated. Saying a genuine thank you or sending a note or a text of gratitude to someone works wonders.
By Lisa Nicklanovich; photo courtesy of Brandon McNeil