How to Be More Thankful + Why it's Good for your Health

November 23, 2016

Being thankful is good for more than our spirit -- it helps our body, too. 

When you can learn to appreciate what you have, you tend to take better care of yourself physically and mentally, cope better with stress and daily challenges, feel happier and more optimistic, avoid problematic physical symptoms, and have stronger immune systems.  Grateful high-schoolers have higher GPAs and are better social integration.  Researchers found that when people spent 15 minutes jotting down what they're grateful for in a journal before bedtime, they fell asleep faster and stayed asleep longer.  Appreciation and positive emotions are even linked with changes in heart rate and hypertension.

The best part of this is that you can practice gratitude anywhere, anytime, and at no cost.

At first it may feel strange, but, as with anything you practice, the more you try it, the more natural it becomes, until eventually, you aren’t reminding yourself to be thankful… you simply appreciate things you once overlooked.

What does being grateful mean?

First of all, it means being mindful of what you have and not focusing on what you don’t have. 

Do you think those with more material possessions have more to appreciate? Perhaps those items come with responsibilities and concerns. Perhaps there’s a mental freedom in not having that which you think you desire. And what if you didn’t have what you do have? Wouldn’t you want it? In that case, be grateful for that which you do have in the present. After all, so much of what you have now is something you once didn't have, but wanted.

It also means taking note of the things in your life that you appreciate. 

Some achieve this with a Gratitude Journal jotting down one or two things for which they are grateful before bed (these are the folks who fell asleep faster and slept deeper in the study mentioned above).  There is much in our life worth celebrating that we often don’t even notice. When we have a cold, we can’t help but feel its discomfort and squirm. It’s time to start celebrating when we are well!

Finally, being grateful can mean rethinking a situation.  

Don’t think of it as putting a falsely positive spin on something. Instead, search for the true benefit of what may at first seem like a disappointment.  Friday night dinner plans are cancelled unexpectedly? Take advantage of an early bedtime combined with an alarm-less rise. Stuck in horrendous traffic caused by an accident? Thank goodness you weren’t passing by 20 minutes sooner and IN it.  Your flight is delayed and you won’t get to see your family until later? Now you can finish that last minute work so your time with family can be undivided.  The next time you find yourself complaining about a hassle, see if you can “flip the switch” to frame it differently.  At a minimum you will gain time, because our minds spend much more time processing and looping negatives than they do positives.