“Thank you” is a phrase many people say involuntarily: for example, when someone opens a door for you, or pays for your coffee. Saying “thank you” to someone feels habitual — but, what happens to your brain when you set aside specific time to practice gratitude for all aspects of your life on a regular basis? The health benefits of gratitude are numerous, and research shows that practicing gratitude consistently over time can make you happier and improve your overall well-being.
So, how might giving thanks consistently improve your life? Check out these interesting potential benefits:
Improve your sleep: Studies have shown that people who are more grateful fall asleep more quickly and have longer, deeper sleep compared to those who don’t.
Keep your heart healthy: One study showed that women who consistently wrote in a gratitude journal for two weeks had lower blood pressure by the end of the two weeks compared to those who didn’t.
Increase happiness: A study from the University of Pennsylvania showed those who wrote a gratitude letter to someone thanking him or her for their kindness experienced increased happiness levels, resulting in positive changes that lasted a month.
Reduce stress levels: Studies of neurology show us that when we express gratitude, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, two hormones that counteract stress and make us feel lighter and happier.
Motivation to exercise: When we’re happier, we’re proven to have more motivation to exercise — so, if you’re consistently practicing gratitude and increasing your happiness, chances are you’ll increase your motivation to work out.
Clearly, practicing gratitude can have great health benefits — but in order to see those benefits manifest, you have to know how to properly practice gratitude on a daily basis.
Here are three different ways you can incorporate the practice of gratitude into your daily routine:
Keep a gratitude journal. Find a journal that you’ve designated as your “gratitude journal” and at the beginning or end of every day, write down three things (they can be general or specific) that you’re grateful for. With daily practice and reflection, you’ll start to slip into a more grateful mindset.
Use gratitude cues. Gratitude cues are a great way to remind yourself to shift your focus to more positive thoughts as opposed to negative ones. An example of a gratitude cue could be a note you have on your desk that says something like, “I’m grateful that I have a job that allows me to live the life I love.” Whenever you feel stressed or frustrated about work, you can rely on your gratitude cues to keep your brain aligned to a grateful mindset.
Meditate. There’s been a massive surge of popularity in the use of meditation to improve moods and stress over the past few years, and rightfully so. Doing just five minutes of meditation for beginners per day can drastically improve your well-being over time, and help you maintain a more grateful and positive mindset in your daily life.
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