Make Giving Thanks a Yearlong Tradition
November kicks off the holiday season for most Americans. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s, people celebrate their many blessings. It’s a time to give thanks for the abundance in our lives. Unfortunately, all too often, when the New Year comes around, it’s back to business as usual.
What would happen if we practiced gratitude more frequently? If we woke up each morning and gave thanks for the opportunity to experience a brand new day, what would happen? Here are just some of the things that research says could happen through the practice of gratitude.
You’ll have a greater sense of well-being
A study conducted by Robert Emmons, University of California, Davis, and Michael McCullough, University of Miami, discovered that people who practiced gratitude regularly were more optimistic, which led to an increased sense of well-being. By practicing the simple act of becoming aware of what we have to be thankful for, we can drastically improve the quality of our lives.
You’ll have a healthier heart
A study conducted by the University of California, San Diego showed that heart patients who had higher levels of gratitude had better moods, higher quality sleep, less fatigue and less inflammation, a symptom that worsens with the progression of heart disease. Paul Mills, professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California, San Diego, who led the study, concluded that “it seems that a more grateful heart is indeed a more healthy heart.”
You’ll sleep better
By increasing your overall sense of well-being, you’ll feel better about life, which will help you sleep at night. A study conducted by researchers at the University of Manchester in England looked at how gratitude affected people’s sleep. They discovered that even among people living with sleep disorders, gratitude was associated with falling asleep faster and sleeping longer.
While practicing gratitude more frequently may sound easy, the challenges of everyday life often make recognizing the good in our lives difficult. So how can we train our mind to focus on what we have to be thankful for? Here are a few tips.
- Give your attention to those things you want more of
Do you find yourself focusing on the challenges in your life or the joys? Do you pay attention to the good in your life or the problems you face each day? Simply become aware of where you put your attention. This is the first step in deciding to consciously choose what to focus on – and by focusing on the good in your life, you’ll slowly start to become grateful for all there is to be thankful for.
- Keep a gratitude journal
Each day, jot down a few things for which you are grateful. Research has shown that those who keep a gratitude journal – just a single sentence of five things each day for which they were grateful – are more optimistic and feel happier about life.
- Surround yourself with those things that bring you joy
Make a conscious effort to bring those things that bring you joy into your life more often. For instance, if you’re grateful for the joy you feel when you’re on vacation, start planning your next one, even if it may be some time before you’re able to go. Planning your next vacation will focus your attention on the joy of traveling and you may experience the same health benefits of actually being on vacation. If the actual thing isn’t available, create a visual cue. This could be a photograph of a loved one or favorite pet, or a memento from a past event.
- Give voice to your gratitude
If you’re grateful for having satisfying work that pays for your lifestyle, take a moment to thank your employer for the opportunity to work there. If you’re grateful for your spouse, make sure you vocalize your appreciation frequently.
- Stay in the present moment
A lot of us worry about the future or have regrets about the past. If you find yourself worrying about an upcoming situation or getting depressed about a past mistake, take a moment to look at what’s going on with you right now. You’ll most likely discover that, in the present moment, everything is fine. Acknowledge that and give thanks.