There have been multiple studies into the transformative power of gratitude and how practising it can help us lead happier, healthier lives. It has been suggested feeling and expressing thankfulness and appreciation could improve our mental and physical well-being as well as our relationships.
Psychologist Doctor Randy Kamen wrote about gratitude for The Huffington Post. According to her, some of the benefits include:
- Improved physical, emotional and social well-being
- Greater optimism and happiness
- Improved feelings of connection in times of loss or crises
- Increased self-esteem
- Heightened energy levels
- Strengthened heart and immune system, and decreased blood pressure
- Improved emotional and academic intelligence
- Expanded capacity for forgiveness
- Decreased stress, anxiety, depression and headaches
- Improved self-care and greater likelihood to exercise
- Heightened spirituality and ability to see something bigger than ourselves.
But, how do you actually practise gratitude? For those who aren’t familiar with the idea, it may seem a little daunting but fear not, practising gratitude is not as hard as you think.
Keeping a gratitude journal
Dr Kamen says the most common method for cultivating gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal which simply involves writing down things you’re thankful for.
She suggests recording at least three positive experiences every day such as:
- Taking notice of something in nature
- A pleasant conversation with a friend
- A good cup of coffee
- Helping someone with a problem.
“Recording these positive experiences boosts levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy, especially when compared to those who recorded or focussed on negative events,” she said.
“Our days rarely go according to plan or without unexpected challenges. Some of us can naturally appreciate the sweet moments as they happen throughout the day, while many of us need to cultivate this sense of appreciation.
“Research shows that recording experiences for which one is grateful for only two consecutive weeks has lasting positive effects sustained for up to six months.”
Balancing out the negative stuff
Reach Out is an online support portal for young people struggling with mental health conditions. It supports practising gratitude as a way to boost your mood, increase positive feelings and “cope better with tough times”.
“When bad things happen, we don’t really forget it, and people can spend a lot of energy thinking about what makes them unhappy,” according to Reach Out.
“But, if you make an effort to increase how often you experience gratitude, it can balance out some of the negative stuff.”
Here’s a list of gratitude exercises Reach Out recommends:
- Take pictures. Set yourself a mission to photograph little things in your everyday life that make you smile
- Tell someone. Whether it’s someone you look up to, or who just makes you happy, take a bit of time to tell them that you’re glad they’re around
- Say thank you. Go out of your way to say thanks to the people around you
- Think about it. Think about what you are grateful for every morning when you wake up
- Meditate. Take some time out of your day to sit and reflect on what you’re grateful for.
This blog post was written as a guest post for House Call Doctor the trusted after hours GP Home Doctor Service that provides after hours GP services.