During November, many of us turn our attention toward the practice of active gratitude, culminating in a big, festive celebration of Thanksgiving. But in truth, gratitude is something we should practice no matter the season, and no matter the circumstance. That’s because gratitude has direct benefits for our mental wellbeing.
But how exactly does gratitude improve our health? And what are some practical ways to cultivate it? Let’s take a closer look.
The Mental Health Benefits of Active Gratitude
According to researchers at Harvard, consistently pausing to express gratitude is associated with greater feelings of happiness. Not only that, but active gratitude contributes to more positive emotions, and helps us to relish good experiences. Gratitude can even provide resilience during tough times, and also facilitate stronger relationships.
And that’s just for starters. Other scientists have linked gratitude to better immune health, to resistance to heart disease, and to a whole host of mental health benefits. These include relief from symptoms of anxiety and depression.
It’s clear that gratitude can have a positive impact on body and mind, so now let’s turn to the practical considerations: How do you make gratitude a more consistent, intentional part of your life?
Ways to Practice Active Gratitude
There’s no right way or wrong way to be grateful, and you’ll really just need to find the approach that works best for you. Here are a few ideas to consider:
This is one of the simplest and most convenient ways to practice gratitude. Simply keep a journal handy and spend a minute or two each morning or evening to jot down a list of things you’re thankful for. Even taking a moment to express your thankfulness at being alive, or in seeing the sunshine for another day, can be meaningful.
If you tend to be more of a visual person, consider this variant on gratitude journaling. This basically involves placing a bulletin board in your home, drawing or writing things you’re grateful for on notecards, and arranging them on the board where you can plainly see them each time you walk by.
Here’s another fun idea. Place a jar somewhere in your kitchen or bedroom. Every time something good happens, or you’re reminded of a reason to be grateful, write it on a slip of paper and put it in the jar. On days when you’re feeling down, draw a few slips and read them, reminding yourself of the reasons you have to be thankful.
Gratitude can be incorporated into morning meditation or breathing exercises. As you practice, simply set your mind on some of the things you have to be thankful for. You may also incorporate gratitude into your prayer life, if you are someone with a devotional or spiritual practice.
You may be someone who prefers to express thankfulness through actions rather than through words and feelings. That’s totally fine! Seek a local volunteering opportunity, where you can display your gratitude by “paying it forward.”
Some people like to build gratitude into their life by way of ritual. This might mean saying grace before you sit down for a meal. Or it may simply mean starting each morning by thinking of three things you can be thankful for.
Sometimes, the best way to feel grateful is to just get outside for a while. Get your body moving, inhale some fresh air, behold the beauty of nature, and let your gratitude flourish.
Find Ways to Give Thanks, No Matter the Season
Active gratitude can be a huge benefit to your wellbeing. And there are countless ways to cultivate it. Think about some of the ways that might work best for your temperament and lifestyle, then develop gratitude practices within your daily life. Remember, we all have much to be thankful for, even beyond the Thanksgiving season.
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