Want more happy? Practice gratitude
February 9, 2024
Practicing gratitude is a small, but mighty, health habit. According to UCLA Health, research shows that giving thanks and being grateful daily can help people sleep better, reduce depression symptoms, lessen anxiety, relieve stress and support heart health. In fact, gratitude can help lower blood pressure and calm us.
Anna Johanson MSW, LICSW
Due to busy schedules and chronic stress, we are conditioned to be on the defense, watching for our next problem or fire to put out. When worries and stress are the only highlight reel playing in our minds, it can seem this is the entirety of our life.
Practicing gratitude can adjust the lens through which we see life. When we make a point to pay close attention to what we are grateful for – the good things in life – we can shift our thoughts more positively. Positive thoughts become positive feelings and positive feelings become healthy, sustainable practices.
How do you practice gratitude?
Keep a gratitude journal daily: Grab a notebook or use the Notes app on your phone and jot down a few of your blessings before you fall asleep or when you wake. Keep it simple, but specific – a good night’s sleep, a brisk walk, a warm breakfast.
Be specific: The more specific you can be in your gratitude practice, the more effective it will be. For instance, we can be grateful to have a home or apartment to live in. Break that down further to the comforts of having a home: hot water, heat, electricity, a place to gather with friends and family. The more precise, the better.
When being grateful for loved ones, name their personality traits such as compassion, wisdom or humor. Or think of their actions. Maybe you’re grateful for that friend who always answers your phone call or text! You can also be grateful for simple acts of kindness from others such as someone holding the door for you or the Door Dash driver who delivered your groceries.
Gratitude prompts: One effective prompt is: Describe your favorite part of your typical routine or day. An online search for gratitude prompts will give you many to choose from: Name your favorite song, recall a time when you laughed so hard you cried or your top 5 favorite things in your bedroom.
Look for the lesson: Write about positive or negative life experiences that helped shape who you are and the strength you have today. Practice being grateful for the lessons that have come in life.
Thank someone: Has someone done something nice for you? Maybe your daughter did the dishes or your coworker gave you a hand. When you thank someone, be intentional. Tell them why. The actions you took to express your gratitude is also a great element to add to your journal.
Prayer: In prayer, you can thank your God before you eat, when you wake or before you go to sleep.
Gratitude Apps: There are a number of free gratitude apps for your smartphone. Delightful: Gratitude Journal is free on the Apple and Android app stores. Simply enter 3 things you are thankful for every day or choose to receive daily prompts and quotes.
Have a grateful year!