What if I told you there is one simple habit that has the power to radically transform and enhance your wellbeing. What is this simple habit?
Gratitude! That’s right, the simple habit of practicing gratitude is one of the keys to health and happiness. And in honor of my favorite holiday, Thanksgiving, we’re going to dive into the health benefits of gratitude and exactly how you can incorporate more gratitude into your daily life.
So What Is the True Meaning of Gratitude?
Gratitude is that positive, warm, and fuzzy feeling you get when you recognize and appreciate something. When we experience the emotion of gratitude, we’re acknowledging the goodness and the value of something in our lives. We can feel gratitude towards another person, an experience, an object, or ourselves.
While gratitude can certainly be a spontaneous emotion we feel in response to something, it’s also a practiced skill we can hone. And learning how to practice an attitude of gratitude not only feels good – it’s also good for you.
Health Benefits of Gratitude
Some of the health benefits linked to intentionally choosing to focus on feelings of appreciation and thankfulness include:1,2,3,4
- Lower stress levels: Practicing gratitude can drastically lower your stress response and regulate the hormones released when you experience emotional distress.
- A stronger immune system: Chronic stress triggers your body to remain in the “fight or flight” mode which can burn out your immune system. By lowering stress levels, your immune system is able to rest and replenish itself. This gives your body the strength it needs to more effectively fight off potential threats.
- A healthier gut: Your gut is also referred to as your “second brain” due to the intricate and complex connection between your belly and your emotions. Practicing an attitude of gratitude quite literally translates into a happier and healthier gut. This triggers a domino effect of better overall health thanks to your gut’s monumental role in just about every facet of health.
- More happiness: Gratitude and happiness are like two peas in a pod. Practicing gratitude releases feel-good neurotransmitters in your brain like dopamine and serotonin. This not only makes you feel happier in the moment, but over time primes your brain to feel happier in general.
- Better sleep: Sleep deprivation is a surefire way to put a damper on your health. And regularly practicing gratitude can help relax your mind and make it easier to drift off to sleep.
- Improved relationships: Let’s be honest – being around people that are happy, positive, and grateful is simply more enjoyable. Having an attitude of gratitude makes you more magnetic. Gratitude helps you deepen connections with your loved ones and form new social relationships.
This powerful combination equates to better overall health in every way. So how exactly can you practice more gratitude in your daily life?
How to Practice Gratitude
There are infinite ways to experience, express, and practice gratitude. But if you’re just getting started, it can be tough to come up with practical ways to incorporate more gratitude into your day-to-day life. These gratitude exercises are some helpful ways to create or enhance your own gratitude practice.
Keep a Gratitude Journal:
One of the most effective ways to cultivate appreciation is to write it down. I often have patients keep a journal and write down five things that they’re grateful for or that made them happy throughout their day.
This simple exercise can have some potent effects. A recent study showed people who make a daily list of what they’re thankful for report being 25% happier, exercising 33% more each week, and sleeping a half-hour more each night!
Taking a few moments each evening to replay your day and recall the kind gestures, everyday pleasures, and positive interactions you had is a powerful way to deliberately practice gratitude. Do this every day and soon it will become a habit and you’ll reap the rewards of having an attitude of gratitude.
Sharing your thankful and appreciative heart with those around you is contagious! Make a habit of thanking those in your life. That of course goes for your loved ones like your spouse, children, parents, friends, and co-workers. But don’t forget to extend appreciation to those who serve you each day and often go unnoticed – like the mailman, the barber, the waitress, the supermarket checkout clerk, the dog sitter, etc.
Be specific and prolific. Tell others exactly what you appreciate about them and do it often – everyone enjoys a genuine compliment and some appreciation. As a bonus, consider mailing or delivering a handwritten note of thanks.
See a Bigger Picture:
Grateful people spot the positive in every situation without denying the hurt. Rather than viewing things through the lens of “black or white”, “right or wrong”, or “good or bad”, gratitude allows you to see both sides. Gratitude is an “and” experience – meaning you may be having challenges or difficulties, but there is always something good in the midst of struggle, too.
You can be hurting and grateful for the experience.
You can be stressed and excited about the outcome.
You can be mourning the loss of something important and grateful for the experiences it brought.
Practicing gratitude means seeing the blessings amidst the struggles. It means acknowledging and focusing on the good without dismissing or denying the not-so-good.
There really are always blessings to be found.
Celebrate Thanksgiving Day Every Day:
Many families do a round of Thanksgiving when they sit down to carve the turkey. But there are many ways you and your loved ones can give thanks for your blessings each and every day, such as:
- Saying a prayer at mealtime to remind yourself of simple provisions that we take for granted.
- Creating a special box into which you can drop notes of gratitude to reminisce on at the end of the year. It can be particularly fun to read old notes from years past to remind yourself of blessings that you may have otherwise forgotten.
- Taking turns at the dinner table each night sharing with each other the things you’re grateful for that day.
This is a wonderful way to connect with your loved ones and deepen your relationships while also strengthening your gratitude practice.
Wishing You and Your Family a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving!
While gratitude may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you consider your health, the truth is, cultivating more gratitude in your life is a powerful pillar of your overall health and wellbeing. And Thanksgiving is the perfect reminder of just how pivotal the practice and expression of gratitude can be.
From the bottom of my heart, I have immense gratitude for my own journey, struggles, and blessings. And more than anything I’m grateful for this opportunity to serve you – my patients and readers – by helping you tap into true healing and helping you experience the radiant health we all deserve.
So this Thanksgiving, as always, I’ll be doing my best to support you all the best way I know how – by providing you the knowledge and resources to step into your power and elevate your physical, mental, and spiritual wellbeing. If you’re feeling pulled this holiday season to take your health to the next level, I encourage you to sign up for my weekly newsletter and get all of my best advice, tips, and resources delivered directly to your inbox. All you have to do is enter your name and email address in the form below.
From my family to yours – wishing you the healthiest and happiest Thanksgiving full of blessings and gratitude!
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.” ~ Maya Angelou
- Effects of gratitude meditation on neural network functional connectivity and brain-heart coupling (nih.gov)
- 15347530.pdf (nih.gov)
- It’s the little things: Everyday gratitude as a booster shot for romantic relationships. – PsycNET (apa.org)
- 7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude | Psychology Today
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. The product mentioned in this article are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is not intended to replace any recommendations or relationship with your physician. Please review references sited at end of article for scientific support of any claims made.
Great ideas! I especially like the gratitude journal. I’ll pick up a notebook today and get started tonight!
So appreciative of the work you do.
thank you so much, Helen!
I appreciate you diving deeper into this simple, wonderful practice. Thank you!