GRATITUDE CHALLENGE

Person Jumping Up On Beach

GRATITUDE CHALLENGE

by | Feb 11, 2022

When we think about how to improve our health and well-being, the thoughts that most often come to mind are eating a healthier diet, exercising more, getting a good night’s sleep or reducing stress. But did you know that practicing gratitude has been scientifically shown to have multiple benefits for health and wellness? At PositivePsychology.com, Courtney Ackerman reveals 28 benefits of gratitude and cites multiple scientific studies to back them up. I love scientific studies!! It’s not that I enjoy pouring over research and statistics, but when I can see reputable studies that support a health-related claim, it helps me to make decisions to begin a habit change. That’s what this Gratitude Challenge is all about! I want YOU to experience the benefits of gratitude for your health too and the first step is understanding them.

Gratitude is about stopping to notice the positive things in our lives and not obsessing about the negative. It can be as simple as being thankful for the beautiful flowers on your morning walk or the fact that your partner did the dishes. And although it can be helpful with depression and anxiety, it’s important to seek medical care from a physician or therapist when depression and anxiety persist.

What are some of the benefits of gratitude?

Ackerman lists 28 benefits under five categories of emotional, social, personality, career and health.

Some of the benefits that stood out to me are

Gratitude…

  • Makes us happier
  • Increases our self-esteem
  • Improves our romantic relationships and friendships
  • Makes us more optimistic
  • Increases our spiritualism
  • Makes us more giving
  • Enhances managerial skills
  • Helps us find meaning and purpose in our work
  • Reduces blood pressure
  • Improves sleep
  • Reduces depressive symptoms
  • Increases frequency of exercise
  • Improves overall physical health

That’s a lot of benefits, and there are 15 more where those came from. The science is compelling and hard to ignore if you’re in search of ways to be happy and healthy. As with everything, it’s the small habits which we practice each day that lead to BIG results.

My gratitude practice journey…

Gratitude Journal

I’ve had a daily gratitude practice for over two years now. This doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel grateful before that, but that I have established a habit of “counting my blessings” every day for that period. It has evolved from laying in bed for a few minutes each morning before getting up and enumerating what I’m grateful for to recording things that I’m grateful for in a daily journal each morning. I like to reflect on the previous day’s blessings and although my list always includes my family, it often includes simple yet often profound things like finding something that I had lost, seeing a beautiful sunset, an interaction with a friend or a new insight that I gained.

The idea to focus on gratitude this week came to me after a recent exercise class. Although we’re moving constantly throughout the class, the instructor likes to keep our minds engaged as well. The question for the day was ‘What do you love?”and the answer could not be a person/persons. Answers included “my bed”, “watching the birds at my bird feeder”, “living within walking distance of our town”, “my grandchildren’s laughter”, “cooking”, and “walking on the beach”. It occurred to me that this was a form of gratitude practice. I felt happier after the class having focused on what I and my workout partners loved and in a small way my relationship with each of them was enhanced as I learned a little about them.

Birds At A Window

Ways to start a gratitude practice…

There are lots of ways to begin a gratitude practice. I’ve mentioned two that I have used.

Review reasons to be grateful in the morning before you get out of bed…

Laying in bed in the morning before getting up and reviewing in your mind things that you are grateful for instead of starting the day “on the wrong side of the bed” is a good way to begin. It only takes a few moments, although you can take as long as you like, but then your day will be off to a great start. This is a big contrast to a day that begins falling out of bed reviewing in your mind the dreadful day of work that you have ahead of you. Even if you expect the day to present big challenges, focusing on a few simple blessings can help the day roll along in a much smoother way.

Journal…

Recording your grateful thoughts in a journal is another way to start a gratitude practice. In this video Marie Forleo outlines her favorite tool for practicing gratitude which she learned from leading gratitude research expert Robert Emmons’ book, “Gratitude Works!”. Marie calls gratitude “the number one supertool to transform your life”.

In a University of Southern California study on journaling, three groups kept gratitude journals for 10 weeks. The first group was asked to write down 5 general things a day that they were grateful for. The second group was asked to pick one thing that they were grateful for and write five sentences about that one thing. The third group wrote ways they were better off than other people. The group that wrote one thing they were grateful for each day and five sentences about that one thing were “more elated, excited and alert and less tired, sad and lethargic” than the other two groups. Recording in your journal “one thing” with the details used by the second group will be a game-changer for you according to Marie.

Write a thank you note to someone who has benefited your life in some way…

Or pay them a visit, and thank them personally!

Pray and/or meditate to cultivate gratefulness…

Collect your grateful thoughts in a gratitude bowl or box…

You can create or decorate a bowl or box for this if you like or just use something simple that you already have. The idea is to write down your grateful thoughts on small pieces of paper daily and drop them in the box/bowl. From time to time, take out one of those pieces of paper and remind yourself what you wrote about gratitude.

Volunteer

Volunteering is often about helping others who may be less fortunate than ourselves. The act of volunteering can lead to reflection on all of the blessings that you have in your life.

Dr. David Fryburg at PsychologyToday.com explains that volunteerism may actually be associated with a lower risk of dying. Now that’s a reason to get out there and give your time to help others.

Review reasons to be grateful in the evening before bed…

Remember…research shows that those who have a bedtime gratitude ritual have a better night’s sleep.

Here’s your gratitude challenge…

Choose one way that you’d like to practice gratitude for the next two weeks. The gratitude practices here are just a snapshot of the ways to begin. Find what works for you. Here’s a list of 40 simple ways to practice gratitude from Lifehack.org.

Commit to practice gratitude in the way that you have chosen each day for the next two weeks. Write down your commitment.

At the end of the two week period, reflect on your experience.

I’d love to hear from you. What did you do to practice gratitude? How did you feel at the end of the two week period? Are you going to continue the practice that you started or try a new one?

If you would like to learn more on the practice of gratitude, here are some additional resources:

The five best books on gratitude according to PositivePsychology,com

The top 8 gratitude apps acccording to HappierHuman.com

The 34 best TED talks and videos on the power of gratitude according to PositivePsychology.com

You might also enjoy these ideas and inspirations from Chasing Beans…

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