4 Ways to Boost Health and Happiness With Gratitude
Cicero said that the feeling and expression of gratitude is “not only the greatest of virtues, but also the mother of all others.” What better place to start if you’re looking to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life?
Gratitude practices have been woven into every culture worldwide for millennia. The act of giving thanks holds together our relationships and societies, and offers a long list of benefits for our physical and mental health.
Studies have linked a grateful disposition or formal gratitude practice to better sleep, less fatigue, lower inflammation, better self care, lower levels of depression and anxiety, higher levels of wellbeing and life satisfaction, and more.
Here are four easy ways to boost your health and happiness with gratitude:
Keep a gratitude journal
The concept of a gratitude journal was popularized in the 1990s by Sarah Ban Breathnach in her bestselling book, Simple Abundance, and has been a self care mainstay ever since.
There’s no one right way to format or use a gratitude journal, but keeping things very simple will make it more likely that we’ll stick with the habit:
1. Write down one thing you’re grateful for each day.
2. Take a few moments to feel the gratitude in your body and hold it in your mind.
Say it out loud
For those of us who aren’t much for writing things down, we can also make gratitude a daily practice by tying it to another activity that we do every day without fail, such as washing our face in the morning or getting into bed at night.
Author James Clear links his gratitude practice to his evening meal: “When I sit down to eat dinner, I say one thing that I am grateful for happening today.”
Put the “you” in “thank you”
A specific type of gratitude has proven particularly effective in creating new relationships and strengthening existing ones: Sara Algoe, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, calls it “other-praising behaviour.”
Sometimes when we express gratitude, we forget to directly acknowledge the person we’re grateful toward. For example, when a friend has just given us a book as a gift, we might say, “I’ve been wanting to read this for years!”
Rather than focusing on the benefit to ourselves, a more generous and relationship-building way to express our gratitude would be to turn our attention to the person who has done the giving. We might say instead, “It was so thoughtful of you to remember the conversation we had when I mentioned this book!”
Most of us have body image issues to some degree - it’s nearly impossible not to when we’re bombarded daily with images of unrealistic beauty standards in advertisements and the media.
We can start to fight back with a gratitude practice that, instead of focusing on what we don’t like about our appearance, turns our attention to all of the things our bodies can do for us.
When we find ourselves thinking, “I hate the cellulite on my thighs,” we can follow with, “I’m grateful for my strong legs and how good it feels to walk.” “I don’t like the circles under my eyes,” can become, “I’m thankful for all the beautiful things my eyes allow me to see.”
(For more ways to shift your focus beyond your appearance, check out this guest post by local fitness and body image expert, Martha Munroe.)
Take care of yourself,
Debra Purdy is the owner of ShopEco, a beauty and self care boutique located in Windsor, Ontario, Canada. Her mission is to help you thrive through self care you can feel good about. For more self care tips delivered to your inbox and a special birthday treat, click here to subscribe.