Practicing Gratitude

Ideas to get happier and see more of the good that’s around you

GreaterGood-StudyVideoAs a counselor, practicing gratitude is a strategy I recommend for anyone dealing with depression.Research is showing some excellent results from practicing gratitude, to include:

  • Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
  • Higher levels of positive emotions;
  • More joy, optimism, and happiness;
  • Acting with more generosity and compassion;
  • Feeling less lonely and isolated.

I have decided to share some of my thoughts about gratitude, for my November blog.

This shouldn’t be too hard… Except that I don’t know where to begin, and I am pretty sure, I won’t know how to stop once I get going.

That has been my experience with practicing gratitude. When I have taken the time to practice it, as in making a point to focus on one thing that is a joy or a blessing in my life, I find that any topic provides a rich, deep journey into positive thinking.

For example, something as simple as focusing on my health, can provide a wealth of inspirational thoughts. Starting with the fact that I can appreciate that I am not sick today, that I can walk, and get up and go outside to see the blue sky, or go call a good friend, or even that I can breathe freely, or simply  that I have woken up for another day.

Despite its healthful benefits, practicing gratitude is not that common. So much so, we often wait until this week, the third week of November, before we give it much thought. I am grateful for this annual ritual, even though it’s not nearly enough, it does give us a recognized time and place to pause and remember what we are thankful for. So, I am grateful that at least there is that.

Here are some ideas to increase the gratitude in your life:

Set Up a Routine Time and Place
Just like beginning any new habit, or practicing a new skill, it takes time and conscious effort to make this new habit become natural. A simple reminder can be helpful.  For example, you could practice gratitude at your family meals, maybe having each family member state one thing they are grateful for.  (This is a good way to find out what’s important to your kids or spouse.) Or, make a plan to write out a gratitude statement in the morning when you get up or every evening before sleep.

Create a Reminder
Create a reminder for yourself with a note in your car or on your bedside table. Something as simple as just the word “Gratitude,” on a piece of paper or on the cover of a notebook you are using to include your statements of gratitude.

Journal It
Write a few sentences each week, focusing on things you are grateful for in each area of your life: work, family, friends, nature, and material comforts and include any uplifting experiences.

One study compared the responses of a group of people following this process with another group who were asked to journal about daily hassles and complaints and a third group was asked to journal on neutral topics.  The results of this 10 week study showed those journaling about gratitude to have increased optimism, positive feelings, life satisfaction, and connection with others. They also exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor than those who focused on hassles. (Source: Positive Psychology; A Harvard Medical School Special Health Report; 2009)

In my experience, I have seen this truly work. By practicing gratitude, you will not only get happier, you will create more happiness around you. You will complain less, and see the bright side more often. So, I wish you more happiness in your life, and more ways to experience the joys you already have.

Doing My Best to…  Live Life on Purpose!

Terri Mudge

DrSuess-Lucky