There has been a lot of doom and gloom in the news over the past few weeks … Brexit, Terror Attacks and Suicides to mention a few. It can be quite difficult at times like this to find anything positive to focus on.
So, lets talk about Gratitude. We often hear about the power of gratitude for creating a more positive and happy mental state. But did you know that gratitude literally transforms your brain?
In recent years, scientific studies have shown that being thankful can improve our lives in all kinds of ways. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude has physical, mental and psychological benefits. Recent studies suggest that being grateful
- improves self-esteem,
- reduces the risk for major depression,
- reduces negative emotions and
- can increase empathy and resiliency even when we are faced with challenging or negative experiences.
Gratitude is also strongly correlated with optimism, and increased optimism can improve immune system functioning and make us feel happier.
If there are so many benefits to something as simple as stopping for a moment to reflect on the good things about the day, then why can it sometimes feel like such a challenge? When we are busy, stressed, or are facing life challenges, it can seem as if the negatives or the bad parts of the day just overwhelm and take control.
When we intentionally focus on being grateful, we shift our attention away from the negatives in a situation and give more power to the positives. Taking time to be thankful means taking time to stop and reflect. Through this reflection we can become more aware of our supports and identify things that we find helpful. This process can help us to discover and develop positive coping. Thankfulness and gratitude are also character strengths that each of us have the capacity to develop with practice.
Here are 3 practical steps you can take to infuse gratitude into your day to day life:
- Start a gratitude journal. This can be as simple as keeping a small notebook on your bedside table and jotting down 3 things you’re thankful for before turning off the light at night. Studies suggest that this simple act can help you to feel less stressed, more calm, and sleep better. Not only does regular journaling become a fantastic habit that makes gratitude more of an automatic response, but it also creates a valuable coping tool – during challenging times you can go back through your journal and read about all of the good things you’ve noticed.
- Make it a practice to tell a spouse, partner or friend something you appreciate about them daily
- Look in the mirror when you are brushing your teeth and think about something you have done well recently or something you like about yourself.