Gratitude is one of the most powerful feelings we can experience, especially when it comes straight from the heart. You know…the real thing. It’s easy to quickly say, “sure, I’m grateful for what I have” and not take it past the surface. But when you really feel that gratitude from the inside, then express it verbally, it takes that feeling to a whole new level.
If and when we can actually do that, studies have shown that we can be healthier and happier, not to mention more successful in achieving our goals! In this blog post I’ll share 12 simple ways to practice gratitude every day, so that you reap all these wonderful benefits for yourself.
First, let’s look a little more closely at how we are impacted when we practice gratitude. We benefit in 4 ways: physically, emotionally, mentally, and socially.
Gratitude: the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankfulhttps://www.dictionary.com/browse/gratitude
Why is gratitude so important to have in our lives?
Learning to be grateful is one of the most important skills we can develop. And yes, it is a skill of sorts. It’s not like learning a language, or how to play golf, or mastering that complicated recipe. But it takes conscious effort and diligence to take that perspective from something we should do more often, to something we automatically see and feel every day.
As we age, we get wiser. At least we hope we do. And with that wisdom comes the ability to see things with a clear perspective, including practicing gratidude.
The benefits are endless: gratitude can help us to be physically stronger, keep us healthier, including better sleep at night, boosts your immune system – the list goes on and on. Let’s look at some of the things in your life that can be made stronger by expressing gratitude.
Practicing gratitude can make us physically stronger
One of the many benefits of gratitude is that it can make us physically stronger. For example, a study done in 2013 found that patients who expressed more gratitude experienced greater muscular strength than those who were less grateful.
Why? These folks were more likely to exercise, and less likely have, or complain about, aches and pains. The result? They tend to exercise more regularly and ultimately became more fit.
How can being grateful improve our health?
Gratitude can improve our health by helping us to be less stressed, and boosting our immunity system. A study done by the University of Miami found that when we show gratitude for what we have in life it reduces our levels of cortisol, which is a hormone released during times of stress that has been linked to heart disease and type II diabetes.
How does being grateful help us sleep better at night?
Sleep quality, in general, has been found to be improved by an attitude of gratitude. A study done at UC Davis found that feeling grateful can lead to better sleep than an ungrateful one because of the positive emotions it triggers,, such as happiness and contentment, which then help promote healthier sleep patterns.
And we know that getting a good night of sleep is essential to us as woman in midlife. How can we put this into practice? Make it part of your evening routine, and take a few minutes to consider what you’re grateful for from the day.
How does practicing gratitude improve our immune system?
Gratitude has been found to improve our immune system by increasing the activity of a group of cells called natural killer (NK) cells. A study done at UC Davis showed that patients who expressed more gratitude had higher levels of NK cell activity than those less grateful for what they have in life.
Can an attitude of gratitude help us emotionally?
Many researchers have found that gratitude reduces feelings of envy, frustration, and other unhealthy feelings, and in turn, help reduce depression. When our minds aren’t filled with what we don’t like, or what we don’t have, or what we should have gotten, there’s room in our little noodles to allow the positive thoughts and feelings to enter.
We’ll feel more optimistic, and ultimately we’ll be happier.
Other benefits of gratitude
One study found that when people practice gratitude on a regular basis it increases their feelings of social support, which has been linked with lower blood pressure.
Another study found that gratitude can increase the quality and frequency of exercise.
The benefits don’t stop there: people who practice gratitude are more likely to have better relationships, be happier with their lives, less stressed-and on top of all these great things it also makes you a more forgiving person!
12 Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude Every Day
Here are some simple ways to practice gratitude that we all can do, every day.
1 | Say “thank you”
The first, and most important thing we can do is to be grateful for the things that are going well in our lives. Say “thank you” often!
It’s also helpful simply to appreciate what you have: when your car starts up on cold winter mornings, when a friend sends you an encouraging email, when you wake up to enjoy a brand new day – these are all moments to be grateful for.
2 | Put it in writing
Another simple way to express gratitude is by writing a letter of thanks: this can be done in person or via email, and it’s an especially wonderful thing to do for someone who has helped you out recently. In fact, that small gesture can mean more to the person receiving it than you think.
3 | Turn the negative into a positive
The next time we have a bad day-whether it’s because of work, or interpersonal conflict at home-we can use this as an opportunity to be even more grateful for what we have in life: our family, friends, and pets who love us unconditionally.
4 | Be mindful
We can also practice gratitude by being more mindful and present in the moment. When we’re fully engaged with what’s happening around us, it means that our mind isn’t wandering to all of the other things we don’t have or haven’t accomplished-and this can give us a sense of peace when there might otherwise be anxiety.
5 | It is enough
It’s also important to remember that gratitude is not about being grateful all the time-it’s simply acknowledging that what we have in life is enough, and that there are always things to be appreciative of.
6 | Be present
Another simple way we can practice gratitude is by using it as a way to be more present in conversations. Instead of thinking about the next thing you want to say, take a moment and really listen to the people in your life. This allows us to connect with others on a deeper level, and might even make them feel better, too!
If you can really, truly make this happen, it’s amazing what you will hear from your friends, loved ones, and acquaintances. It’s hard to turn off that voice in our head that always wants to do the talking.
7 | List it
Another suggestion is that we try making gratitude lists or keep a gratitude journal (one of the many benefits of journaling) when things are going well for us. This can help us to remember and appreciate the good things in our lives, so that we don’t take them for granted.
8 | Flip your thinking
When stresses, challenges, and disappointments come your way, think about what you have learned from them and how they can make you a better person instead of what you missed out on, or didn’t accomplish, or weren’t recognized for. It may sound counter-intuitive, but be grateful for that challenge because it has helped you become a stronger person.
Sometimes we need to step back and refocus our thinking, our perspective. As women over 50 we have experience many changes in our lives, including a feeling of uncertainty about the future. If you’re at the point in your life where it seems like setting goals, staying focused, and moving forward in your life seems almost impossible, take a moment to learn more about Fresh Start Challenge, a simple email series course for women over 50. It might be just what you need to bring your life back into balance, and help you find the gratitude in each day.
9 | Give it away
Make it a regular practice to donate clothes and household items you don’t need or use anymore, and be grateful that you have a surplus to share with people who aren’t as fortunate. You can also feel great about repurposing those things and being kind to our environment while simplifying your life and reaping the benefits of downsizing a little bit.
10 | Around the table
Here is something that your family can benefit from, no matter how large or small. When you sit down to a meal, go around the table and give everyone the opportunity to name one thing they are grateful for on that day. Include the little ones in this as well; you’d be surprised at how deeply they think at a young age.
Is prayer a part of your life? Whether it’s before eating a meal, a part of your morning routine, or the last thing you think about before falling asleep, a prayer of thanks is one of the effective ways to practice gratitude.
11 | Compliment someone
Give someone a compliment, every day, and expect nothing in return. In fact, go out of your way to find someone to say something nice to, whether it’s friends and family, or someone you happen to cross paths with.
If you’re thinking about what type of compliment you can sincerely give, you’re not thinking about yourself. And that’s a step toward having a grateful spirit and heart.
12 | Smile
Do you know what smiling can do for us? It can directly affect our mood and happiness, relieve stress, boost our immune system, and can even help us to live longer.
And here’s a big plus, my friend: smiling makes us more attractive. Not in a self-centered, look-at-me sort of way, but in the way that softens our overall look, lets others know that we’re approachable, and helps us look more youthful.
It’s one of most simple ways to practice gratitude, especially when we’re going through challenging times in life. A smile reminds us that there is always something to feel good about!
It’s important to practice gratitude, not just because it makes us feel better all around, but because life is short and none of us knows what tomorrow will bring. It’s not about always being thankful; it’s simply about being more appreciative of what we have, and acknowledging that it’s enough.
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