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Giving Thanks Can Make You Healthier and Happier

10 Ways To Practice Gratitude


The field of research around gratitude is fairly young. Yet researchers have found that the act of being grateful and giving thanks can make us more likely to adopt other healthy habits. It can also make us more resilient to anxiety and stress, stimulate our immune system, stave off disease, help us stay connected, sleep better and heal faster…all things that make us happier.

In short, gratitude is good for you.  


So how do we turn gratitude into a practice? How do we make it a healthy habit that makes our lives richer and happier on a regular basis?

Researchers think it’s a combination of many things that determines how naturally grateful we are, like our culture, religious or spiritual practices, parenting, personality, even gender. But the fact remains, no matter how naturally it comes, we can all cultivate gratitude.

  1. Say Thank You. We take a lot for granted, don’t we? But think of the way it makes you feel when someone takes the time to thank you.

    We all want to feel special and appreciated for our contributions, and saying thank you is a meaningful way to let people know how important they are to you. You’ll even find that this small act of kindness often comes back to you.
  2. Begin or End Each Day with Gratitude. Whether it comes in the form of prayer, counting your blessings, journaling or meditation, take a few minutes each day to remember why you’re here and who and what you’re most grateful for. This attitude of gratitude can set the tone for the day and night ahead.

    In fact, researchers from the University of Manchester found that people with positive thoughts, the ones who focus on their blessings or things they are thankful for before bed, slept longer and reported feeling more rested.
  3. Count to Five. In behavioral psychology, there is a method of dealing with anxiety or negative thoughts called The 5 Senses Grounding Technique or the 54321 Technique.

    The premise is that when you feel worry or stress, you interrupt negative physical and emotional feelings by focusing on your surroundings. Stop, take a breath and notice:
    • 5 things you can see (your hands, your wedding ring, a favorite piece of art, a tree, a handmade quilt)
    • 4 things you can physically feel (your feet on the ground, the lotion on your hands, your breath and the cool air from the window)
    • 3 things you can hear (friends laughing, the TV, birds singing)
    • 2 things you can smell (breakfast and laundry detergent)
    • 1 thing you can taste (minty toothpaste)

By stopping and focusing on the here and now, you are essentially slowing down enough to appreciate the simple things.

  1. Make a Point of Adding Joy. A call with your best friend always lifts you up. So does bread pudding, dogs and a good hair day. Take time to intentionally schedule these things into your week, even if you need to enlist the help of others. Especially then.
  2. Be Generous. We’re not talking about giving away all of your money, although philanthropy for a cause you hold dear is the kind of generosity we are talking about here. Empathy for others helps us appreciate our own situations and to feel like we have something to contribute.

    Be generous with your praise, your smiles, your time, talents, resources and interest in others. This generosity breeds trust and helps you connect with people.
  3. Learn About Others’ Stories and Struggles. Being curious has always been a ‘pro-social’ behavior that endears us to others. It also keeps our brains active and young.

    Being interested in others is an act of generosity. And when you find out more about the people and places around you, you discover things you have in common, fascinating facts and your relationship becomes more meaningful. It follows that when these people become more important to us, we feel grateful for them.
  4. Stop Complaining. The negativity is toxic, and it changes your brain and perspective. It can also make it difficult to think constructively and problem solve. When we look for the positive in situations, that optimism opens doors and gives us options.
  5. Get Some Fresh Air or A Change of Scenery. Sometimes we are so mired in our negative thoughts that it’s tough to snap out of it. Changing your physical perspective is a good step toward changing your mental one.

    So take a walk or a drive, go into another part of the house or get out for a while. Even seeing a tree, flowers or plants, not to mention a walk outside, has been proven to promote optimism, lower blood pressure and stress and speed healing.
  6. Visualize the Best Outcome. Visualization is like putting psychological distance between you and your decision, problem or situation. The conscious mind can really only focus on one thing at a time.

    But the unconscious mind can work wonders. Look at how many epiphanies and ideas you’ve had in the shower or as you’re mindlessly loading the dishwasher.

    So visualize your decision or problems as colors, words, even people. Then visualize moving them into one corner of a room, turning, leaving and closing the door. Then visualize walking toward something positive. See the best possible outcome and play that out in your head. Think about how that makes you feel.

    Sometimes even sitting on a problem and giving it time can help you step out of the details and into the bigger picture. This clarity can help you take action and feel empowered, happier, even stimulate the immune system and fight disease.
  7. Seek Out Good Company. A good mood can be like a yawn, very contagious. Seek out people who are positive, who bring out the best in you and others and who are as good at listening as they are talking.

    These relationships are built on trust, generosity and love, things that endear us to each other and make our lives fuller and richer.

We wish you a healthy and happy Thanksgiving, and hope that you find and celebrate reasons to give thanks every day. To learn more about the ways we encourage Traditions residents and each other to live gratefully, please visit us online at Traditionsmgmt.net and find a community near you.