You know that saying ‘thank you’ is polite, but did you also know that it’s good for your health?
In fact, developing a regular practice of expressing gratitude has positive effects for your body, your mind and your relationships, according to Robert Emmons, psychologist and professor at the University of California, Davis and one of the world’s leading gratitude scientists.
In his research, Emmons shows that a consistent gratitude practice can help lessen aches and pains, boost the immune system, lower blood pressure, promote feelings of joy and happiness, and help us to build more positive relationships. And that’s not all! Here’s more on the health benefits of practicing gratitude.
How does it work?
Emmons explains that “gratitude works because it allows individuals to celebrate the present and be an active participant in their own lives. By valuing and appreciating friends, oneself, situations and circumstances, it focuses the mind on what an individual already has rather than something that’s absent and is needed.”
You can practice gratitude in a lot of different ways and in any circumstance. For example, workplaces often benefit from an injection of appreciation. By starting each meeting with an acknowledgment and thanks for tasks accomplished rather than simply turning to what’s next, teams build camaraderie and trust. This practice has a positive knock on effect on productivity as employees who feel recognized are more likely to be invested in the work they do.
Here are some of our favorite tips to get you started with your own gratitude practice:
Write for gratitude
The practice of writing is a powerful tool. It’s useful for helping us organize our thoughts and ruminate on our feelings. It can also help us cultivate gratitude.
There are many ways that you can use writing to practice gratitude. Writing a thank you note to someone you’d like to show some appreciation to is one good way. Whether you intend to send it or not, the practice of writing a note will help you remember that person’s kindness. If you do send it, it will help nurture your relationship with them. You can write thank you notes as a regular practice, including to yourself.
Journaling is another good way to practice gratitude. Spending time each day to note the people, experiences or anything else you are grateful for is a good way to remember all the little blessings that are part of your life.
Gratitude for the digital age
Using a messaging app such as WhatsApp is an easy way to bring bursts of gratitude into your day. You can start a group with friends, family or colleagues and send messages of gratitude anytime you have an experience that makes you want to say thanks. This is a quick way to bring yourself back to gratitude during a busy day.
Meditate for gratitude
Just like it’s possible to focus on the breath, a mantra or sound during meditation, it’s also possible to focus on something or someone you’re grateful for. And you can do it as part of a formal
meditation class or while you’re waiting in line at the grocery store. Anytime is a good time to practice gratitude meditation.
Close your eyes and picture someone or something you are grateful for and imagine yourself being thankful. This practice will help you cultivate feelings of positivity and boost your mood. If prayer is part of your life, you might integrate this exercise into your daily prayer ritual.
At Exhale Studio, we offer daily meditation classes as well as special workshops on gratitude to help you grow your practice. We’d love to have you join us to help bring a bit more gratitude into this world. For details, see our complete online schedule.