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November is National Gratitude Month. It’s a fitting time to practice gratitude, every day, and embrace the power it brings into our lives.
Gratitude is more than saying “thank you”, although that’s a start. Showing appreciation for what we have, even the small things, is a wonderful way of expressing gratitude. And it’s a response to kindness, help and generosity from others.
Expressing gratitude became a life changing experience for me, a little more than a decade ago. In the swirling chaos that surrounded my life at that time, including the death of my father and the suicide of a friend, I found my way through by starting a gratitude journal. That daily practice was the beginning of a new way of life for me.
It turns out gratitude improves health and wellness also.
Check out the connection between gratitude and health in this post.
The Health Connection
Research shows that gratitude dramatically improves overall health and wellness levels. That makes practicing gratitude a habit worth cultivating…and not just during November.
Below are ways that gratitude transforms us.
Gratitude Relieves Pain
How we think influences how we feel. And studies show that people who regularly express gratefulness…and truly feel it…experience fewer aches and pains.
This study found that the simple practice of listing three gratitudes at the end of each day resulted in fewer headaches and less stomach pain.
Grateful people also tend to take better care of themselves. They move their bodies more, eat better quality foods and practice self care. All of these contribute to less pain and greater feelings of wellness.
Gratitude Improves Cardiovascular Health
People who feel grateful and express that gratitude experience lower blood pressure and less chronic inflammation, a condition that damages the lining of blood vessels. That damage raises the risk of heart disease.
Keeping a daily gratitude journal not only lowers inflammation levels in patients with asymptomatic heart failure, it also improves heart rhythm.
Gratitude Promotes Better Sleep
We all know how important sleep is to health. Studies discovered that those who made nightly lists of their gratitudes slept better and awoke feeling more refreshed, than those who didn’t. Focusing on the things we are grateful for at night increases a feeling of calmness that helps us fall asleep.
One of my favorite ways to drift off into sleep is to express gratitude by listing them mentally for all the blessings of the day, large and small.
There’s also a correlation between lack of sleep and lack of gratitude! When we don’t get enough rest we feel cranky and crankiness doesn’t tend to support feelings of gratitude.
Gratitude Improves Emotional Health
When in the midst of stress and/or anxiety, pausing to express gratitude shifts our thoughts from the negative to the positive. Feeling grateful snaps us out of detrimental loops of guilt, dread or pessimism and brings us fully back into the present moment.
Additionally, stress contributes to inflammation in the body and chronic illness. Over time, gratitude boosts the immune system, helping to fight off illness.
A gratitude practice, such as journaling or expressing the day’s blessings, also improves depression, helps us release toxic emotions, strengthens relationships and fosters empathy for others. Check out other ways to improve emotional health HERE.
Ways to Practice Gratitude
Creating a gratitude practice is easy and doesn’t take much time. To see the greatest shifts in health and life, express gratefulness daily.
Try any of these gratitude ideas.
- write daily in a journal, expressing gratitude for the day’s blessings
- every night at bedtime, speak aloud or mentally list at least three gratitudes from the day
- create or join a Gratitude Challenge, which are common during November
- practice self gratitude
- meditate, focusing on the day’s gratitudes, allowing great joy to fill your heart
- intentionally look for things to be grateful for…and more will find you
- take a gratitude walk, in nature, and express thankfulness for what you see
- create gratitude art…try this fun gratitude pumpkin that I did a few years ago
- write out favorite gratitude quotes and keep them where you can see them
- list “I am” gratitudes… such as “I am grateful for a strong body”
- learn to say “thank you” in American Sign Language and use that gesture throughout the day
- write five or more thank you notes or texts a day and send them to people you are grateful for
- practice telling others that you are grateful for them…make eye contact and be sincere
How are you practicing gratitude this month? And have you seen a shift in your life and health because of gratitude? Share with me in the comments below.
Gratitude Sparkers from Amazon:
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I am not a medical practitioner. I study health and wellness related topics and share experiences from my own personal healing journey.