What if I told you there was a zero cost, easy way to improve your physical and mental health? You’d probably think I was being untruthful, right? But there really is a way to help boost your health and feel amazing that’s easy and free — and it doesn’t involve sweating, either (nope, it’s not exercise). It’s so simple that anyone can do it, even children…it’s called a gratitude practice.
How can a gratitude practice improve your health?
And let’s say it does improve health, how do you actually “practice gratitude?”
Glad you asked.
In this article I’m breaking down the benefits of a gratitude practice and giving you some ideas for starting your own.
Gratitude Practice Benefits
The science is pretty clear. Studies on gratitude show that a regular gratitude practice can help to improve:
When analyzed with an MRI, study participants who were asked to imagine situations in which they’d feel grateful even showed brain activity in the anterior cingulate cortex and medial prefrontal cortex.
Basically, whenever scientists endeavor to study gratitude and its effects on health and well-being, they find that people who are grateful are more satisfied, happier, and are less likely to experience depression and anxiety.
We’re not just talking about being grateful for the “big” things here, either. Celebrate when your latte is made with a little extra foam, just the way you like it. Give thanks when your child actually straightens their room the way you were hoping they would. Feel those feelings of gratitude when a throw pillow you’ve been eyeing is on sale.
Taking a second to remind yourself of how much there is to be grateful for is something you can do no matter how dire your circumstances may seem, too. I don’t want to diminish anyone’s suffering or make light of difficult situations. But I can guarantee if you dig deep, there’s at least one thing you’ve got to be thankful for.
The sun in the sky, your sight, the air in your lungs, the roof over your head, the people in your life who love you…these are all ideas of “small” things that you might have to be grateful for, too.
Ways To Practice Gratitude
OK, so gratitude is good for you. But it doesn’t come naturally. What now?
The easiest way to start to train your brain to see the good in situations is to implement an intentional gratitude practice. It’s not as difficult as it may sound…and if you’ve heard “start a gratitude practice” as advice but wondered “what exactly does that look like?” I’m laying out specific ways you can create a gratitude practice that works for you.
The important thing to remember is that these are just suggestions. Like with most personal practices, finding something that feels good to you is what’s most important. Take some ideas and leave others. Combine 2 or 3 practices if you want. And be sure to switch things up if you get bored or find yourself not following through with your practice.
As with most rituals, consistency seems to be the key to creating the biggest results. And the benefits here seem to compound — the more you focus on gratitude, the more you notice things to be grateful for…and the cycle continues, creating more gratitude and things to appreciate.
The great news about practicing gratitude and reaping all of the benefits of bringing more of it into your life?
Most of the ways involve absolutely zero monetary cost.
And they don’t need to be hours long rituals, either.
Here are some of my favorite ways to practice gratitude:
Probably the most popular gratitude practice is journaling. This can be as simple as listing out a few things each day that you’re grateful for. When you’re writing each item on the list, really try to feel those feelings of gratitude wash over you and savor them for a minute. Don’t try to force yourself into a certain number of items, just start listing the things you felt grateful for recently and see how long you can make the list.
You can start or end your day with gratitude journaling, whichever works best for you.
- Mindfulness And Meditation
If writing isn’t your thing, a gratitude meditation just may do the trick. You can try a guided meditation that helps you focus on things you’re thankful for, or you can sit quietly and let your mind focus on something you’re grateful for without a guide. Timing here doesn’t matter, either. You can begin or end your day with this quiet time.
- Gratitude Jar
A fun way to include the whole family in a gratitude practice is to create a gratitude jar. The idea here is to write down what you’re thankful for on a small slip of paper and deposit it into the jar. Then, at the end of the week, month, or year, you take out the slips of paper and read them out. This lets you experience gratitude twice!
This practice is great for everyone, and can be fun for even small children to participate in (if they aren’t old enough to write, you can always write it for them). When you’re able to stop and acknowledge that a moment is special enough to commemorate by adding it to the jar, it helps bring gratitude front and center for a time, and then, when you read out your slips, you can feel the joy again.
- Pay Compliments
Have you noticed that people seem to be poor at giving and receiving genuine compliments?
If it feels awkward for you, I’d suggest pushing yourself a little outside of your comfort zone and trying it. Giving someone a compliment immediately puts you in a state of gratitude, as you’re appreciating something about them. Think how good it makes you feel to say something like, “Wow! You really did a great job on that report, thank you so much!” or maybe, “I really appreciate you making dinner tonight, it was fantastic!” And then think about how awesome you’ll make the person you’re complimenting feel. You’ll get a double hit of grateful.
The more comfortable you get giving compliments, the more comfortable you become receiving them — which is important, too. The next time someone offers you a compliment, don’t just dismiss it with an “oh, this old thing, I got it at the discount bargain bin…” Actually allowing someone to offer you appreciation is another way to invite more gratitude into your life.
Looking for other easy ways to improve your health and well-being?
Finding gratitude can be a great first step in taking control of your health. But it can be difficult to step into gratitude when you’re feeling run down, sick, and tired.
I get it, I really and truly do.
Which is why I created this quick quiz to help you on your path to reclaiming your vibrant health.
It may just help you to start to understand why you’re not feeling your best.
Try it out and let me know if you have any questions.
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