Since childhood, we are told to be polite and say “thank you”, often without much further discussion or explanation. This creates a disconnect between the emotion that should be behind those words and the positive process of experiencing gratitude. Of course, gratitude can also be a feeling that occurs unconsciously when something good happens, but practicing gratitude is a conscious cultivation and acknowledgment of those good things.
The benefits of being grateful are honestly endless, from elevating your mood to improving social interactions and bolstering your confidence. The goal of a gratitude practice is a more grounded and positive inward sense of self and outward perspective on your surroundings. Creating a more optimistic outlook can be a daunting task, but start simple and keep working at it to make gratitude a part of your life.
There are endless ways to increase gratitude and lots of ideas out there, but at its most basic this practice can take the form of a gratitude journal or simply a note or maybe a list, which you review and add to every day or every week. Starting your day with a few things you are grateful for takes no time but automatically begins the day by focusing on the positives, not the negatives. You may be grateful for the same things every day, which is by no means a bad thing, it will just solidify your appreciation for those aspects. If you are just starting out you may want to introduce this “counting blessings” method only once a week until you feel comfortable with the practice and actually want to do more.
Research on Gratitude
Some of the most prominent research on gratitude comes from psychologists Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough. One of their 10-week studies divided people into three groups with one group writing about things they were grateful for that had occurred during the week and the other noting daily irritations or unpleasant interactions, and the third documenting any event that had affected them either positively or negatively. Unsurprisingly the gratitude group was more optimistic and felt better about their lives at the end of the 10 weeks. Surprisingly, they also exercise more and had visited their physicians fewer times than the group that focused on irritations/aggravations.
What Am I Grateful For?
As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder it is easy to start feeling down, but heading into Thanksgiving, I urge you to try and bring gratitude to the forefront of your mind. Whether it is your health, family, friends, partners, pets, home, safety, nature, freedom, education, goals, or just something good that happened that day/week etc. the list goes on… there is something to be thankful for.
11 things I am grateful for today (I couldn’t cut it down to 10!):
- Strider (my dog)
- Fall colours
- A friend who is coming to visit for the weekend
- My patients
- The long weekend
- My legs (the most reliable mode of transportation which take me around the city and to beautiful places in nature)
- Thanksgiving dinner and generally the abundance of good food I have access to
- The mountains (whether I am climbing one or just enjoying the view from the Integrative window)
- My garden
For more information on gratitude: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier