Giving Thanks to Gratitude
Every year at Thanksgiving, we are reminded to acknowledge the goodness in our lives—the people and moments for which we are most grateful. It’s a wonderful tradition that sets the tone for a meaningful and authentic holiday season. Why stop there? Gratitude should be a daily practice, not just an annual ritual. It’s good for our spirits. It’s essential to our health.
How many times have you said to yourself, “I will be happy once I … finish this assignment, lose five pounds, find a boyfriend, move to a new city, travel more, work less, get a new job” or any other dream or goal you have? Once you achieve that goal, do you find yourself satisfied, or chasing after the next one?
We are driven to pursue new challenges and experiences. It’s how we succeed and grow in so many ways. Yet we can’t be truly happy until we also learn to appreciate the now—and to embrace feelings of gratitude. Instead of thinking about all the things you don’t have in your life, take time every day to celebrate what you do have. It’s such a simple concept. Why not give it a try?
Write down the five things for which you are most grateful at this exact moment. Before you read another word, write them down. Before you answer another email, write them down. Before you let the weight of the daily grind consume your spirit, write them down. Do you notice a change, even a subtle shift, in your physical and emotional well-being?
Feelings of gratitude can improve your mood, boost your immune system, release feel-good hormones, help you sleep at night, and reduce your blood pressure. They might even make you a nicer person!
Many studies have shown that a daily gratitude practice can also make you a happier, healthier person. Researchers who have studied gratitude have noted that people who keep gratitude journals are more optimistic and have fewer physical symptoms.
Researcher Robert Emmons of the University of California at San Diego has studied gratitude for many years. He has found that feelings of gratitude can help ease resentment, regret and depression. In one study, he reported that participants who kept a daily gratitude journal experienced a 23 percent reduction in stress hormones such as cortisol.
Adopt an Attitude of Gratitude
One of the best ways to practice gratitude is by acknowledging what you have. Make a commitment to do it every day. Here are a few ways:
- Keep a gratitude journal.Take a few minutes to jot down five people, circumstances or situations that make you feel grateful.
- Tell a friend or loved one how much you care.Let them know they are special to you.
- Send a thank-you card to someone who helped you out.
- Volunteer your time.You will feel more grateful for the things you have. Helping others also boosts feel-good hormones such as oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine.
- Live in the present.Don’t spend as much time worrying about the past or future.
- Perform daily acts of kindness.Open the door for an elderly person, let someone go ahead of you in line, compliment someone to their supervisor. Any random act will make you feel good inside.
Jenna Richardson is Clinical Director at Princeton Integrative Health. Located at 134 Franklin Corner Road, Suite 101B in Lawrenceville, Princeton Integrative Health combines conventional medicine with evidence-based nutrition and lifestyle healing therapies. For more information, call 609-512-1468 or email [email protected]. PrincetonIH.com.