We need to look after ourselves both physically and mentally in order to be truly healthy. It may be easy to see that having an attitude of gratitude is good for your mental health but it may not seem to have much to do with physical health. However, research shows there is a close connection. Gratitude boosts both your mental and physical health.
Gratitude is acknowledging good things in life and feeling thankful for them. The more you acknowledge the good already in your life the more good things you will become aware of, and increasingly good things will be attracted to your life.
Look for the good things in your life. Image by Marie Vonow
A considerable amount of research has been done on the effect of feeling gratitude. Currently there is a $5.6 million research project on gratitude being conducted by the University of California Davis in collaboration with the University of California Berkley.
Research has shown the benefits of practising gratitude include:
Greater optimism (this also boosts the immune system)
The ability to manage stress better
Greater mental alertness
Having more compassion for others
Better relationships and feeling more connected to other people
Better overall health and less need to visit a doctor
Lower blood pressure
Being more likely to exercise regularly
Being more motivated to eat a healthy diet
Greater inclination to get regular medical check ups
Gratitude improves relationships Image by Marie Vonow
What can a person leading an ordinary life feel gratitude for? There are many things that may be taken for granted unless one makes a conscious effort to look for the positive. Depending on individual circumstances these could include:
Supportive family members and friends
A house to live in
The neighbourhood you live in
A car (even if it is old and has seen better days)
The wonders and beauty of the natural world
Wonders and beauty of the natural world Image by Marie Vonow
The list goes on. Even if times are tough, there is usually much to feel gratitude for. Being aware of these things will improve your ability to cope with lifes challenges and stresses. It will improve your relationships with others and strengthen your support network which will also help you handle problems.
How can one practise feeling gratitude? Here are some ideas to try:
Each day write down 3 to 5 things you are thankful for. These things could be written in a gratitude journal or on the computer.
Each day take a photo of something that makes you happy. Save the photos in a folder with a label that makes them easy to find. If you are computer savvy you could set up a slideshow that keeps changing when your computer is idle so you will see them frequently.
Make a habit of seeing the positive aspect to negative situations, where possible. For example, rather than complaining about an event being cancelled due to the weather think how good the rain is for the garden and the benefit of the reservoirs filling up. Think of something fun to do with the spare time you now have.
Remember the good times with pleasure rather than being sad they are over.
Consciously remember the good things rather than dwelling on the negative.
Thank people, either verbally or in writing.
Take photos of things that make you happy. Image by Marie Vonow
It is worth cultivating an attitude of gratitude as it will improve both your mental and physical health. Improved health gives you something else to feel gratitude for.