As Thanksgiving approaches and we move into the holiday season, gratitude and thankfulness become topics of conversations around dinner tables, over cups of tea, and in classrooms. It’s an opportunity to focus on the positive, meaningful things in life – the people, the experiences.
Gratitude can actually have a profound impact on mental health, like feeling more joy, less isolated, more compassion, and less lonely. In fact, it’s a growing field of psychological research, with loads of studies coming out of universities in the United States. But don’t take my word for it, check out this article, and this one (from Harvard Medical School no less….). Changing your thought patterns works like cognitive behavioural therapy – positive thoughts beget more positive thoughts.
One of these studies broke participants into three groups, one that recorded five things they were grateful for on a daily basis, one that recorded hassles they experience in their day-to-day, and a third neutral group were asked to track events, but weren’t told whether to focus on the positive or negative. At the end of the ten week study, participants who focused on gratitude felt 25% happier than the hassled group. But more than just that, they also exercised more and generally felt healthier.1
Beyond mental health benefits, studies have shown some other pretty incredible results of gratitude, like lower blood pressure and a stronger immune system. Who would have thought that gratitude could be the way to fight that winter cold!
A gratitude practice starts with developing an awareness of what you have in your life, rather than what you don’t. It requires mindfully reflecting on your day. It is a skill that can be learned and honed.
A gratitude practice is a great rejoinder to mindfulness. Modern OT offers an excellent program – Mindfulness to Promote Recovery. The next session begins November 3 and runs for eight weeks. Sign up today.
Not sure where to start?
Here are some simple ways to begin incorporating gratitude into your day-to-day.
- Give compliments! Try to compliment someone each day, it will cause you to focus on the positives.
- Make it a date. Set a reminder alert in your smartphone, making gratitude a part of your routine.
- Buddy up! Ask a friend or partner to join you (Bonus, another study found that positive attitudes is a predictor of a successful marriage.) 2
- Pause. Take a moment in your day to pause and notice what is around you.
- Be kind to yourself. Had a bad day? Recognize that sometimes days can be hard. Allow yourself to feel sad or angry, and then ask yourself what you stand to learn from the tough spots.
- Give thanks. Went out for lunch? Thank your server. It’s that simple.
Let’s do it together!
Over the next 2 weeks, some members of our team will be sharing a gratitude practice and we would love for you to join us! Every day, write down three things that you’re grateful for. Our experiences will be shared on our Modern OT Twitter account and in next month’s newsletter.
- Emmons, R. A.,& McCullough, M. E. (Eds.) (2004). The Psychology of Gratitude. New York: Oxford University Press.