How To Thank Your Way To Health And Happiness
Congratulations, Sheroes! You made it to the last few weeks of 2020! To say that it’s been quite a year is an understatement, so it’s time to give yourself a break and use this month to celebrate the fact that you got here in good health. Sure, it’s a bit hard to feel thankful after everything that has happened this year, but the fact that Thanksgiving falls in November could be a sign – whether or not turkey is involved, maybe a little bit of gratitude is in order!
Regardless of the season, the overall benefits of gratitude should be enough to make us thankful every day. Yes, it’s been scientifically proven that being grateful leads to better health and happiness.(1) Giving thanks can actually rewire our brains by activating a neurotransmitter called dopamine, which makes us feel good and motivated enough to achieve our goals.(2) A number of studies have even explored the links between gratitude and things like better mental health, stronger relationships, improved sleep quality, less stress, healthier hearts, and lower cellular inflammation!(3)
Even without learning the science behind it, we all know how good being grateful feels like. Whenever you think of something you’re thankful for, it’s impossible to ignore the good vibes that follow. But like many worthy things in life, gratitude takes practice. It’s easy to get caught up in other thoughts and feelings, so here are a few ways to let gratitude take space in your routine instead!
When your to-do list is stressing you out, take time to make a gratitude list as well.
Checking off all the items on your to-do list might give you a high, but there’s another kind of rush to be gained from creating a list of everything you’re thankful for these days. If counting your blessings could lead to more, then take it a step further and make a gratitude journal. It can range from simple things like “My online shopping haul arrived today” to profound realizations that could fill a whole page. For those who think that it sounds like a chore, there’s no pressure to write everyday – research has shown that doing this at least once or twice a week is already enough to raise your happiness levels.(4) It might take a while to get the hang of it, but you’ll definitely get into the habit of finding things to be grateful for!
When you get stuck in “shoulda woulda coulda” memories, think of what you learned from those moments instead.
Every so often, ghosts of the past can pop up and remind us of every regrettable decision and embarrassing moment we ever had. If you find yourself replaying these awful memories, it’s normal to think about what you should have, would have, or could have done to avoid whatever happened next. But there’s another way to keep yourself from spiraling down memory lane – think of those bad things as teachable moments that gave you the gift of wisdom for the future. So what did you learn after going through a certain experience? After reflecting on the answers, you can reframe any regrets into what you should, would, and could do for the best outcome for the future instead. Who knows, those moments you once hated might even make it to your gratitude journal someday!
And if you’re someone who really likes reminiscing and reflecting on the past, try to focus on the memories that you’re thankful for, as well. You can keep photos, souvenirs, and other mementos of the good old days. Just let each item give you a rush of gratitude as you remember that good things happened, can happen and will continue to happen for you!
When it gets a little too loud inside your own head, go for a nature walk.
This one might be harder to do because of quarantine, but try going outside and taking a socially distanced walk in nature. Even as you wear a mask or face shield, take a deep breath and be aware of what you’re seeing, hearing, doing, and feeling. It’s all about staying in the present and being mindful, which is what most gratitude practices always recommend.(5) During your walk, clear the clutter of the past and the future inside your head by focusing on the here and now. Think of it as a form of meditation that gives you an excuse to enjoy nature, too. In any case, being in the moment can give you more things to add to the gratitude list!
When interacting with people, try looking for a genuine reason to compliment and thank them.
Studies have proven that gratitude does build better relationships(6), so always saying “thank you” is probably a good start. Aside from literally giving thanks with your words, there are also many ways to get creative in cultivating this practice in your social life. Being thankful for the people around you can make you see the world with a friendlier perspective, no matter how unagreeable others may be.
Get into the habit of finding little things that you can appreciate about your friends, family, co-workers, or even random people you don’t know. And when you do discover something you like, let them know about it through a genuine compliment, a thank-you note, or even a little gift. When you have a true attitude of gratitude, you’ll find that helping and volunteering gives you even more fulfillment.(7) It’s all about expressing the good feeling of gratitude and sharing it with the world. Keep at it long enough and you’ll definitely end up in someone’s gratitude journal, too!
(1) Science Proves That Gratitude Is Key to Well-Being (2018)
(2) The Neuroscience of Gratitude (2016).
(3) 14 Health Benefits of Practicing Gratitude According to Science (2020)
(4) Tips for Keeping a Gratitude Journal (2011)
(5) How to Practice Gratitude (2019)
(6) How Gratitude Helps Us Build Better Relationships (2015)
(7) 8 Ways To Have More Gratitude Every Day (2016)
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