With Thanksgiving just a day away, gratitude and thankfulness are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. During this season, we are often moved to give when we normally wouldn’t, help when we’d usually stand back, or find new depths of generosity in some arena of your life.
Is it lovely to count your blessings on Thanksgiving? Absolutely.
Can it be life-changing to be thankful day in and day out? Without a doubt!
Gratitude can be one of the most overlooked and underutilized tools that we have available to us every moment of every day. It doesn’t require much time and doesn’t cost a penny, but the benefits reaped can be tremendous. There are advances being made each day concerning the neuroscience of why gratitude “works”, and entire university programs dedicated to advancing the understanding of positive psychology. Gratitude actually affects your brain at the biological level. It does this using two important chemicals in our bodies – serotonin and dopamine. Boosting these two neurotransmitters are the focus of many anti-depressant medications, but they can also be stimulated naturally simply by feeling and expressing gratitude. Some research even shows that remembering to be grateful actually changed the density of neurons in certain areas of the brain, and because of that, it takes less effort to be grateful over time.
Don’t just take it from me, here are a few benefits of cultivating gratitude that have their roots in science and research:
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Gratitude bolsters self-esteem.
- Grateful people enjoy better health, both physical and mental.
- Gratitude increases feelings of joy, optimism, and happiness.
- Grateful people feel less lonely and isolated.
If you’d like to start practicing gratitude as part of your daily routine, here are a few simple ideas that pack a powerful punch:
- Keep a daily journal of things that you’re thankful for. The best times of day to incorporate this practice is right when you wake up in the morning, or just before you go to bed.
- Once a day, make a habit out of telling your spouse, a friend, or a coworker something you appreciate about them.
- Write a thank-you note and drop it in the mail once a week.
Focusing on the good rather than what’s bad builds an enduring mindset of positivity that can be drawn upon long after performing any of these actions. Being thankful feels good, it’s good for you, and it’s a blessing to the people in your life. The only thing we’ve got to lose is a crummy attitude and a negative outlook, and that would be okay with me!