On Thanksgiving Day, we are all reminded to reflect upon and express gratitude for the aspects of life we hold dear. What about the other 364 days of the year? The benefits of practicing gratitude go far deeper than you may believe.
Robert Emmons, Ph.D., an author, researcher, and professor of psychology at UC-Davis has dedicated his career to research on gratitude and happiness. According to the scale Emmons used in some studies to calculate well-being, participants who practiced gratitude were a full 25 percent happier than other participants.
The effects of gratitude can make you more resilient.
We all have those periods in life when we have to work hard at being grateful. What if you could be happier, despite your circumstances? Studies show that if you practice the art of gratitude for only five minutes a day it's possible. Emmons and his peers have discovered that a person who experiences gratitude has a higher coping mechanism and may show increased resilience to stress in the face of trauma. Gratitude can help us recover more quickly from illness and offers the benefit of greater physical health.
Certainly, you have nothing to lose by trying. There are many simple things you can do to put more emphasis on gratitude in your life.
Keep your eyes open.
When we think about what we're grateful for, it's natural to focus on health, family, our home, and the tangibles that make our lives easy and pleasant. Challenge yourself to observe your surroundings throughout each day in search of the little things that make you smile and appreciate life. This simple exercise will bring about a noticeable change in no time.
Keep a gratitude journal.
At the end of each day, jot down a few of your observations of the day and why you feel grateful for them. This exercise allows you to magnify and expand upon the little things, which deepens your feelings of gratitude. Knowing that you've made this commitment to yourself will strengthen your resolve to recognize daily opportunities to pay attention to the good stuff.
The negativity that comes from complaining not only affects your mood but that of others. If you look for the positive side of things, your perspective will change, improving your problem-solving abilities. Optimism directly correlates to happiness, and looking for that little piece in every situation that makes you feel grateful is one way to become more positive.
Take a reflection walk.
Walking for exercise is undoubtedly valuable, but slowing down your pace to count your blessings offers health benefits as well. The nice thing about this goal is that it can be a five-minute walk at any point in your day. Taking breaks is essential, and a commitment to doing a daily walk to reflect upon the things you are grateful for may give you more of a purpose.
Say thank you.
Happy employees are more engaged at work, and there's nothing like words of gratitude from the boss to make an employee feel good about themselves and their workplace. Everyone appreciates knowing that they are valued--even a stranger who holds the door open for you. Think about the things that you take for granted in your everyday life and express your gratitude. Tell someone how much you value them and why. Words of kindness are deeply meaningful.
Pay it forward.
Charity work or donations, paying for someone's coffee, and other random acts of kindness are examples of how we can pay it forward. When you bring a little happiness into someone else's life, you'll find yourself feeling great all day long.
Smile more often.
Like yawning, smiles are contagious. I enjoy making eye contact with strangers, along with a little smile. It makes me feel joyful that I can bring a moment of happiness into someone else's life. Why not give it a try? The mere act of smiling prompts your body to activate neural messaging and release mood-boosting neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin--all of this in a simple smile.
Journaling and taking leisurely walks are meditative activities, but your efforts can go deeper. When we visualize the things that make us feel successful, happy, and healthy, every cell in our body responds favorably. Not only does this prompt the brain to seek out opportunities to bring more of what we visualize into our lives it can stimulate the immune system and fight disease.
Be thankful on Thanksgiving and every day beyond.
View Thanksgiving as a symbolic marker and an opportunity to ramp up your gratitude efforts (not that you need an excuse). It takes effort to be intentional about gratitude daily, but before long, it becomes natural. Your health, relationships, and level of success will all improve. Who doesn't want that?