The festive season is a wonderful time to start a gratitude practice.
For most it involves spending time with family and loved ones. For others it is a difficult time filled with anxiety or stress. Either way, it is always a good time to start practicing gratitude.
To start a gratitude practice, first we must understand gratitude; it is when we feel grateful for something or someone and express our thanks and appreciation. But, how can you practice something you are supposed to feel? It all starts with a daily habit, where you practice expressing appreciation for the things and people you have in your life. This can be done in various ways, most commonly through journaling, guided meditation, prayer and notes of appreciation (when expressing gratitude for someone in your life).
These daily practices cultivate a sense of appreciation for things big and small. We can think of gratitude as a mindset as well as an emotion. It connects us with something bigger than ourselves and helps us connect with others. Through daily practices we can train our thought patterns to avoid negative emotions and re-focus on the positive. It may not always come easy, but that is what the practice is for.
So why should you practice gratitude besides cultivating thankfulness? It has been proven that gratitude improves many aspects of a person’s well-being.
Benefits associated with Gratitude:
- Improved physical health: Gratitude shifts the focus from negative thoughts and habits towards positive behaviour patterns, this can lead to improved physical health.
- Improved response to stressors: gratitude is seen as a coping skill for acute and chronic stress, helping shift focus from the problem to the solution.
- Increase in sleep and sleep quality: Expressing appreciation before bed leaves on with a sense of contentment, which improves sleep and the quality of sleep. Rather than dwelling on the negative outcomes of the day.
- Improved self-esteem: a daily gratitude practice helps reduce self-comparison with others and helps build stable self-esteem that is not based on other’s opinions, but on self-satisfaction.
- Improved mental health: cultivating appreciation and gratitude reduces feelings of stress and depression especially over the long term.
Gratitude is something that has the power to transform all our lives for the better. It is something that we can all cultivate and share. It is never too early or late to start being thankful.