3 Ways to Practice Gratitude (and why it’s good for your health)

If you’re feeling frightened, overwhelmed or stressed this holiday season, you aren’t alone. The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust us into unusual and trying circumstances that have affected everything from the way we celebrate and gather to the way we work and do day-to-day activities.

That’s why this year, even though it may be hard, it is more important than ever before to focus on noticing and being thankful for the things that are meaningful and valuable to us. Practicing gratitude is good for your physical and mental health, and it can help you stay well during the pandemic, get through holiday season and help you relax.

Gratitude and Your Health

Stopping to smell the roses or to count your blessings may sound like cliches, but practicing gratitude actually has wide-ranging health benefits.

Boosting your immune system: According to the American Heart Association, clinical trials show that practicing gratitude can improve immune functioning, which is especially important during a pandemic and flu season.

Reducing your risk for developing mental health issues: People who actively practice gratitude are less likely to develop substance dependence and abuse, major depression and generalized anxiety disorder.

Reducing stress: Focusing on thankfulness and positive emotions enhances your ability to cope with stress in healthy ways.

Easy, Rewarding Ways to Practice Gratitude

Cultivating a thankful spirit doesn’t have to take much energy or time. Start small by simply noticing things that bring you joy and things that are going well in your life. Make it a habit to set aside a few moments each day to focus on gratitude.

Make a List

Identifying and naming your gratitude on paper can improve your well-being. If you have trouble getting started, think about places that feel safe and relaxing, people you trust, one thing that’s going well, a few things you enjoy doing and some things you are looking forward to. Keep a running list and add to it daily as you notice new things to be grateful for.

Make Meals Mindful

Mealtime is a perfect occasion to practice gratitude. Before you dig in, take a moment to appreciate the bounty before you and the hands that made it possible. As you eat, practice slowing down and savoring each bite so you truly enjoy it.

Count Your Blessings, Not Sheep

Many of us have trouble sleeping at night because our minds fill with anxieties and worries as soon as our heads hit the pillow. Instead of counting sheep, try counting your blessings. Reflect back on your day and think of three positive things you experienced. Making this practice a routine can help you get better rest at night.

Gratitude can even help you stay more connected with others, which is vital during this pandemic. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, people who practice gratitude are more wiling to forgive others, more helpful and generous and more able to offer emotional support to others. Each of these traits is needed now more than ever, and we hope that you’ll take steps to practice gratitude this Thanksgiving and always.

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