Did you know that the simple practice of giving thanks can improve both your physical and mental health? Research in the field of Positive Psychology points to a wide range of benefits. A daily gratitude practice has been shown to strengthen the immune system, lower blood pressure, reduce the risk of heart attacks, improve the quality of sleep, and alleviate symptoms of anxiety and depression. In addition, people who practice gratitude are more optimistic about the future, experience more joy, feel more connected to others and enjoy more positive personal relationships. They are also less emotionally reactive, and better able to deal with challenges that arise without becoming overwhelmed.
Gratitude is a proven antidote to stress. If you could ward off some of your holiday stress by implementing this one daily routine, why not begin right now? It’s free. It takes only 5-10 minutes a day. You can do it anywhere, at any time. You can practice gratitude standing up, lying down, in your car, on your bike, in the produce aisle, or sitting at your computer. It requires no extra equipment, no special training, no advanced degree.
Some people enjoy having a partner in gratitude, not unlike an exercise buddy, to help keep them on track. Some people keep a daily gratitude journal. Some use visual cues, like a traffic light or an image on one of their screens, as a reminder to give thanks. Some subscribe to www.gratefulness.org and sign up for the Gratitude Word of the Day to be delivered to their email each morning. Some use a Mindfulness Bell app on their phone. The bell chimes randomly during the day as a reminder to return to the present moment, and be grateful.
To create a gratitude practice, all you need to do is count your blessings. “I am grateful for (fill in the blank).” Do this every day, morning and night, and you create what I call a gratitude sandwich. Try this for a week and see what happens. Bracket your day with grateful thoughts, but find new things to be grateful for every day (no repeats). Before you get out of bed, think of three things you are grateful about. Before you go to sleep, think of three different things.
See where this is going? Day by day, you will build a sense of abundance. You will retrain your brain to focus on the positive. And when we put our attention on what we have, rather than what we lack, we experience the joy of truly abundant living.