Mind-Body-Spirit

The Power of Gratitude

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By Kimberlydawn Wisdom, M.D.

Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or waking up to a brand-new day, taking stock of the riches in your life — both big and small — can go a long way toward bolstering health and well-being. Research shows that people who express gratitude are happier, more optimistic, and have stronger immune systems and emotional connections. They’re also better equipped to manage day-to-day stress.

Here, five ways to cultivate more gratitude in your daily life:

  1. Keep a gratitude journal. Counting your blessings rather than fixating on what’s missing improves quality of life, especially if you put it in writing. In one study, women who wrote in a gratitude journal at least four days a week were happier — and less stressed — than those who didn’t. So, take a minute to jot down three to five things you appreciate.
  1. Find pleasure in simple things. Sure, you may not have everything you want, but you’ll benefit from appreciating what you already have. Maybe you stared at a star-filled sky, soaked in a soothing bath or savored a chocolate truffle. The key to contentment is finding pleasure in the little things that make up your every day.
  1. Focus outward. Smile at others, perform a random act of kindness or take time out to acknowledge a job well done. Expressing gratitude in these ways goes a long way toward making the people in your life — or even strangers you encounter— feel loved and valued every day. In that sense, gratitude can be contagious.
  1. Hand-write a thank-you note. While it may seem like an antiquated way to express thanks, writing a note requires you to identify and appreciate deeds that are worthy of praise. Hand-written notes are not only a rare treat, they offer something for the recipient to hold onto. The best thank-you notes don’t need to follow a gift — instead, they arrive unprompted and focus on what you appreciate in that person.
  1. Practice mindfulness. Cultivate gratitude by being mindful. Say grace, meditate, give thanks — however you choose to be present in the moments you appreciate. Even difficult situations often have a silver lining. Research confirms that people not only experience growth on the heels of pain and suffering, they often become more grateful as a result of their struggle. (See our beginner’s guide to mindfulness to get started.)

Cultivating gratitude in your life (and in others!) doesn’t have to be dramatic. Just pay attention to the good things that happen during your day. When you encounter people doing something you appreciate, say thank you with words, a smile or a simple note. Positive feelings are contagious, so not only will you help the person you thank (and yourself), you’ll support the greater good, too!

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