Practising Gratitude Can Have Positive Effects on Physical and Mental Health

When you experience gratitude, you feel grateful for something or someone in your life and respond with feelings of kindness, warmth, and other forms of generosity. Making a conscious effort to count your blessings can relate to something tangible or intangible. How can we incorporate it into our daily lives? Numerous studies have shown that people who practice gratitude are happier, have lower stress levels, suffer less from depression, engage in better self-care, and have significantly fewer physical health problems. Practising gratitude reduces headaches, respiratory infections, sleep disturbances, and gastrointestinal problems. It also helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.

Practising gratitude is not something that always comes easily or naturally, and that is okay. It might feel a little unnatural or forced at first, and can take some work and a bit of time to master. Often we have to consciously remind ourselves of things in our lives that we can be grateful for, especially on tough days. You can also go back in your past and reframe a negative experience you may have had. Compare those experiences with where you are now and how far you have come. Remind yourself how you endured those experiences and what you learned. With the power of positive thinking, we can put negative situations into perspective and find a greater meaning.

With the many challenges that the COVID-19 pandemic has brought to people’s physical, emotional, and financial well-being, it may not always be easy to practise gratitude. Many have lost jobs and loved ones, and many are missing family and friends that they have not been able to see in months or years. During these difficult times, gratitude has the power to heal and bring hope.

Here are some daily tips you can try to practise gratitude:

  • Keep a journal — Writing down what you are grateful for each day helps you focus on all you have in life rather than on what you are lacking. Journalling your thoughts can also be fun and insightful.
  • Self-appreciation — Every day, practice saying five good things you like about yourself. It may be awkward or difficult at first; however, over time it will become easier.
  • Tell someone you appreciate them — Whether a simple statement over the phone or an expression of thanks when someone helps you with something at work, letting someone know you are grateful for them not only improves your own mood but improves the other person’s mood as well.
  • Write a letter of thanks to someone — This can be a letter you send or keep for yourself. Try writing to a friend or a loved one and tell them about a time they did something for you that you were grateful for.
  • Give thanks for little things — You can be grateful for little things that may be insignificant to others. For example: a hot cup of coffee or getting a great parking spot. These little things can give your mood a little boost and train your brain to focus on the positive rather than the negative.
  • Enjoy the beauty of nature — Technology is all around us. Putting those devices aside and noticing the beauty of nature by going for a walk, a hike, or even a drive can be good for the soul. The ocean, trees, flowers, and animals can all have a calming effect and help you to feel connected to something bigger than ourselves.

Unfortunately, our time and energy are often focused on pursuing things we don’t currently have — a longing for a nicer car, luxury vacation, or bigger house. Gratitude reverses our priorities to help us appreciate the people and things we do have. If you are kind to yourself and grateful toward others, people will likely start by taking your lead and feeding off your positive energy. Before you know it, the world has the potential to be a more thoughtful and kinder place.

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