25 Ways to Practice Gratitude
Research shows numerous health benefits from expressing gratitude
Gratitude is our emotion that relates to expressing thankfulness and appreciation. We all know that gratitude is a good thing, but here’s a fact that might surprise you: Gratitude is good for your body. The concept is simple; a healthy mind equals a healthy body. Since kindness lifts our spirits and warms our hearts, it aids in fighting off, healing and sometimes even curing a plethora of illnesses that ail us.
Research shows that expressing gratitude regularly improves mental, physical, and relational well-being.
By taking the time to be grateful, for even the small things, you will begin to experience a positive attitude that creates a ripple effect into your physical life. People who regularly practice gratitude have lower blood pressure, exercise more often, and even have fewer aches and pains.
Studies have shown that taking the time to practice gratitude even increases serotonin levels (the neurotransmitter that regulates mood). This will lead to developing positive relationships with those around you, and a better self-esteem, which can result in a decrease of depressive thoughts. In fact, gratitude has many amazing benefits on our bodies.
Gratitude Improves Brain Health
Acts of kindness and feelings of gratitude flood our brains with a neurotransmitter called dopamine. Dopamine controls a list of actions such as starting motor movement in the body, but it’s also responsible for our happiness emotion. When we’re truly grateful for something (or someone) our brains reward us by giving us a natural (dopamine) high. Because this is such a good feeling, we’re motivated to give thanks, and do good for others, repetitively.
Gratitude Can Decrease Pain Levels
Although it may be hard to believe that something as simple as saying thank you can alleviate physical pain…It’s entirely true. In a 2003 study called Counting Blessings vs. Burdens, sick patients were asked to keep a gratitude journal. After completing their gratitude journals, sixteen percent of subjects reported reduced symptoms, and 10% of subjects reported a decrease in pain. It also showed that subjects were more willing to exercise and were far more motivated in their recovery.
Gratitude Improves Your Sleep
Numerous scientific studies on gratitude have all yielded the same result: Gratitude increases the quality of your sleep. In a 2012 research study on gratitude, Chinese researchers noticed that gratitude had the following profound effect on sleep: the time it took to fall asleep wasd significantly decreased, and the duration of sleep (number of hours) was substantially increased. When we express gratitude, it becomes easier for us to fall into a deep, healthy, natural sleep. I was so impressed by this finding that I wanted to try it for myself. So, I got a gratitude journal (notebook) and each night for five minutes wrote down all the things that I’m grateful for (including my fur babies). I then scored my quality of sleep the next morning on a scale of 1 – 10 (10 being-slept like a baby straight through the night, 1 being woke up several times during the night and felt tired the next morning). I did this faithfully for 7 consecutive days. Here’s what I noticed…my overall quality of sleep improved from a 6/10 to a 10/10 for all seven consecutive nights and after waking in the mornings – I felt refreshed. I then stopped the gratitude journal before bed and the quality of my sleep for the next week fluctuated from 5/10 to a 9/10, but I did not always wake up feeling refreshed.
Improved quality of sleep plays an enormous role on our health. It can remedy anxiety, depression, pain and stress and also boosts our immune system.
Gratitude Reduces Stress, Anxiety and Depression
A 2005 study showed that keeping a gratitude journal decreased depression by more than 30% for the duration of the study. Also, keeping a gratitude journal, or writing and sending thank you notes can increase our long-term happiness by more than 10%.
Patients with hypertension, in another study, were asked to Count their blessings once a week and write them down in a journal. Results showed a significant decrease in the patient’s systolic blood pressure and a 10% reduction in overall blood pressure.
In a different study, participants showed a decrease in cortisol levels (the stress hormone) and an improvement in heart rate variability when cultivating the acts of appreciation. Researchers concluded that the benefits from practicing gratitude also make us more resilient to trauma and stressful events.
Create A Gratitude Journal
Begin by keeping a Gratitude Journal today. Keep it simple so that you’ll stick with it. First, get a blank notebook. Each night before you go to bed, write down a few things that you’re grateful for. Here are some examples of things you may want to express gratefulness for in your journal:
- Your family
- Your health
- Your dearest friends
- Beautiful memories of someone or something
- Your animal companions or animals in general
- The mountains, ocean, rivers, pastures…etc.
- A beautiful day
You can expand on these thoughts if you wish, or if you prefer to keep it simple, bullet notes will do just fine…Just Do It!
With all these Amazing benefits from practicing gratitude, we want you to get started immediately by practicing these acts of gratitude:
22 Ways to Express Gratitude
- Ask a stranger how their day is going: The next time you’re at a cash register or speaking to a telephone representative, take a few seconds to ask them if they’re having a good day.
- Give compliments more generously, even if it’s a stranger
- Let your loved ones know what you find incredible about them (big or small)
- Let someone go ahead of you in line (whether you’re on foot or in your car)
- Hug more: When greeting someone or saying thanks, don’t be afraid to hug them.
- Take a moment to enjoy the beauty of your outdoor surroundings and give thanks
- Take an extra moment to tell your ‘fur babies’ how special they are.
- Take the trash can in for your neighbor and don’t wait for a thank you, do it just because.
- Volunteer for a task you know someone else doesn’t want to do
- Truly listen to someone who is speaking and give them your full attention
- Be there for someone during difficult times without phone interruptions or other distractions
- Show elation and delight when someone goes out of their way to give you a gift (even if you don’t like it).
- Pick one day and don’t complain for the entire day
- Perform a random act of kindness without looking for praise
- Pay it forward: Pay the toll for the car behind you or buy a cup of coffee for the person behind you in line.
- Volunteer your time
- Smile…All the time! You’ll be amazed at how your smile will brighten someone’s day
- Visit the sick or elderly in a nursing home
- Post a positive review on something: don’t just post negative reviews, make sure to post a positive review when something’s done right.
- Give words of encouragement to someone
- Place positive ‘Post-It’ notes around your house
- Practice positive Affirmations
- Change your words from “I have to…” to “I get to…”
- Be a mentor or teach someone
- Always say “Thank You!”, especially to our loved ones whom we so often forget to thank.
This blog has been provided by Dr. John Coppola, D.C. and Dr. Valerie Monteiro, D.C. Dr. Coppola and Dr. Monteiro are the founders of the San Antonio Neuropathy Center, and Precision Sport & Spine. They are the leading experts in the field of neuropathy and specifically drug free nerve repair. They are the authors of the critically acclaimed book “Defeat Neuropathy Now …. In Spite of Your Doctor. The doctors have over 25 years of clinical experience.
If you would like to reach the doctors regarding a specific health problem, you may email them at [email protected].