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Daily dose of gratitude boosts health, outlook

Deidre Ashley

November 25, 2017 | From Sound Mind | Jackson Hole News & Guide

As I walked through town the past couple of weeks and noticed the fall colors and smells and watched the kids trick-or-treat in wonderful costumes, it reminded me that fall is truly here.

I love this time of year. The town is quiet, and things tend to slow down. That provides an opportunity to regroup and get centered before the hectic holiday season begins. With everything that is going on in the world this slow time presents a good opportunity to be mindful about what is important.

With Thanksgiving just around the corner I’d like to share my favorite quote by Melody Beattie: “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

That absolutely beautiful quote reminds me to cherish the important things in life and notice and appreciate the beauty of every day. Life is stressful, full of ups and downs. However, gratitude can ease our mood and change our outlook.

Turns out gratitude may be one of the most underrated tools for better mental health. Science backs the notion that practicing gratitude daily has many physical and emotional benefits.

“Grateful people take better care of themselves and engage in more protective health factors like regular exercise, a healthy diet and regular physical examinations,” says Dr. Robert Emmons of the University of California-Davis, author of the book “Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier.”

Emmons goes on to say that gratitude aids in coping with stress and can help build a strong immune system and keep your mind alert.

Another bonus: Spending just a few minutes before bed writing down a couple of things you are grateful for can also improve sleep.

Gratitude builds new and stronger relationships. Emmons’ studies show gratitude can reduce negative emotions like jealousy, regret, resentment and frustration, as well as symptoms of depression, all while increasing feelings of happiness and self-esteem.

Additionally, grateful people show more empathy toward others and have a reduced tendency toward retaliation, aggression and social comparisons. Who knew that such a simple practice could be such a useful tool for overall well-being?

So how do we go about making gratitude an integrated part of everyday practice?

Gratitude shifts the focus onto what you have from what you feel you’re lacking. The word comes from the Latin word “gratia,” which means grace, graciousness or gratefulness. Practicing gratitude forces you to notice the positive points of your life, which tends to be more difficult when you are struggling. It’s easy to miss the good things happening around us when we’re going through difficult times.

Developing a daily habit of gratitude may feel contrived initially, but the practice becomes easier with repetition. Challenge yourself to dedicate a few minutes every day; make it a game. It can change the way you perceive your environment, which can greatly affect your moods.

Start small with a daily gratitude journal, scheduling a time each day or week to list a couple of things you are grateful for, meditating, writing thank-you notes or mentally giving thanks. Those who are spiritual may pray to cultivate gratitude, but everyone can count blessings and notice the things that went well.

These are all easy things you can do to increase your overall well-being. They won’t eliminate all the stress in your life, but they’re sure to help reduce it.

It costs only a little bit of time. Why not give it a try?