It’s that time of year again. Fall is in the air and temps are cooler as the holiday themed decorations and gift ideas are exploding in the stores at every corner. As we close the gap between present and the end of this year, we have a wonderful opportunity to recount, remember and rejuvenate not only our schedules, but our mindset for the yearend and the start of a new year. While this time of year can also be stress-inducing, it’s also a perfect opportunity to slow down, count our blessings, fill our thoughts with gratitude, and hone in on a regular practice of gratitude for every day.
Psychology Today posted an article by Amy Morin (04/03/2015) which lists the following 7 scientifically proven benefits of gratitude:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships.
- Gratitude improves physical health.
- Gratitude improves psychological health.
- Gratitude enhances empathy.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude improves self-esteem.
- Gratitude increases mental strength.
If this is not enough to urge you into developing a gratitude practice of some kind, then keep reading – being grateful can really change your mind…and brain!
How Gratitude Changes Your Brain - The Science:
When we express gratitude and receive the same, our rain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us ‘feel’ good. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy from the inside.
There are studies and research that is starting to explore how gratitude works to improve our overall mental health. Joshua Brown & Joel Wong’s article: “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain” (Greater Good Magazine, June 6, 2017) recounts the following four insights from their research which suggest what might be behind gratitude’s psychological benefits.
- Gratitude unshackles us from toxic emotions
- Gratitude helps even if you don’t share it
- Gratitude’s benefits take time
- Gratitude has lasting effects on the brain
Gratitude can help us become more resilient to the ever-changing world around us and helps to unleash us from the toxicity of not only our own emotions, but of those around us and our responses to that negativity. This is astounding to acknowledge that something as simple as saying thank you (even writing it and not saying or sending it) can have this profound effect with long lasting benefits to our overall health and happiness. And even if it might take some time to feel the effects (reference point 3 above) – in the long run – it feels good and makes us feel better immediately; just saying or writing down what we are grateful for, and this is quite comforting especially as we ease into the end of the year and all the anticipation and stress that holidays and year-end activities can have on a person’s emotional landscape.
While gratitude might come easy to you, or not; the following are a few examples of how you can cultivate a lasting routine of being grateful that can help change your life for the better.
- Start a gratitude journal: If you need a new journal – go ahead and allow yourself the indulgence of finding a beautiful, colorful (or plain) binder, book, pad of paper – whatever you desire to start writing down what you are grateful for. Once you have the medium chosen, choose a time of day, or a single day or time each day that you write down what you’re grateful for. This can be a simple as one thing, to 3 things every night that you write down. It can be as simple as writing down the obvious – such as “I’m grateful for my husband/wife/kids, family, our home”, etc. – or less obvious such as “I’m grateful for waking up today”. Once you get in the habit, then begin to be more specific – “I’m grateful for my husband for making dinner last night, etc” – studies show that the more specific you are, the greater the benefits.
- Do a grateful meditation: Either put on a timer and mediate and reflect on what on the gifts in your life; or listen to a mediation with a guide to help you recall and recount the blessings in your life.
- Gratitude Letter: Write a letter expressing thanks, and either sent it; or don’t – just the act of writing it has shown to have a positive effect on your brain and your emotional state.
- Three Good Things: Write down 3 good things – that happened each day, week, or at an event or meeting – this can be in your journal, on a post-it note, on a chalk or white board, or anything else that is available (eg write it in the sand if you’re on a beach, with chalk on your sidewalk).
- Gratitude call: Choose one person each week or month that you call or write an email and say thank you. It could be as simple as “Thank you for being in my life.”, or “Thank you for being my friend.”
Preliminary research suggests that grateful people may have better sleep, relationships, healthier minds and bodies and fewer aches and pains. While most research shows that the emotional and psychological effects of gratitude are beneficial – it’s also good for your physical health too. While the jury is still out definitively on whether gratitude causes good health or whether good health causes gratitude – it seems easy to decide that either way; gratitude and leading a grateful life will reap many benefits for you overall. Now, it’s time to just say thank you and move towards a life full of gratitude!
Rejuv at Work offers several options for Mind-Body classes and/or workshops such as: Stretch at Your Desk, Deskercise, Yoga, Tai Chi and Pilates. These are all ways to help reduce and manage stress and anxiety; as well as promote a healthier and happier outlook and work environment. Developing a Gratitude Practice can complement these classes and action and can be as easy as just ‘feeling’ grateful every day, and you can do it anywhere, anytime!