How wonderful it is to have one day a year dedicated to gratitude and thankfulness! Many of us are well aware of the spiritual benefits of cultivating gratitude in our lives, but it turns out that these benefits can even extend to physical health!
Gratitude Reduces Stress
Grateful people — those who perceive gratitude as a permanent trait rather than a temporary state of mind — have an edge on the not-so-grateful when it comes to health, according to Emmons’ research on gratitude. “Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health behaviors like regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular physical examinations”.
Cultivating an attitude of thankfulness has also been linked to better immune function, better ability to relax, and even decreased rates of disease.
The Paradox of Gratitude
It is easy to fall into the trap of thinking “if only I had ___ I’d be happy,” or “If only I didn’t have to deal with ___ I’d be happy,” but this is a vicious cycle…
As Shawn Anchor points out in the TED talk, gratitude and happiness are the first step, not the end result. Making the choice to be happy and have gratitude is not only healthy, but it can improve our performance and ability as well.
Why is Negativity So Easy?
It sounds so simple to just be grateful, but it turns out that there are biological reasons this process doesn’t come so easily.
Sure, by all measures, if you are reading this on a computer, your living conditions are better than those in a large majority of the world. You probably got to eat today, likely even food you chose and enjoyed, and you probably have adequate clothing. We probably have friends, and a social support system, and family members we can talk to regularly.
Yet, it is easy to dwell on the financial problems, or the one negative comment on a blog post (*ahem*) or the one thing we wish we could fix about our bodies.
This makes sense from a biological standpoint, but makes gratitude difficult. We are wired to pay attention to pay attention to things that could be potentially negative or harmful as a survival instinct, but in a world of constant input from the internet and social media, this instinct can backfire.
Making Gratitude A Habit
Thankfully, (haha) cultivating a grateful attitude is possible, and it can be one of the easiest things you do for your health! As this article suggests, a few simple changes can help make gratitude a habit:
- A Daily List– One thing I do daily is to make a list of a few things that I am especially grateful for that particular day. Whether little things like my garden or the dishwasher to big things like my children and wonderful husband, I’ve found that this does help to keep the focus on the many blessings in my life. When done first thing in the morning, this sets the tone for the day and helps me stay positive and cheerful.
- Gratitude Letters– Once in a while, I try to write a letters to friends and family members thanking them for their influence in my life and detailing the reasons I am grateful for them.
- Acts of Kindness– Doing a small, un-noticed, good deed each day can help boost the natural tendency to be grateful and look for the good in any situation.
As Martha Washington said:
“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
So, if you are grateful for anything today, please share it below in the comments! Five things I’m very grateful for today are:
- My family
- My friends
- A good night’s sleep
- Access to healthy food
- You! I feel so blessed to get to “meet” all of the wonderful people who stop by and leave comments!