June is for fathers and graduates. Mothers get May. October is all about Breast Cancer awareness. But November? November is for gratitude.
According to Merriam-Webster, gratitude means: a warm feeling of thankfulness towards the world, or towards specific individuals. The person who feels gratitude is thankful for what they have and does not constantly seek more.
Psychological research proves, unequivocally, that gratitude is associated with greater happiness. A Harvard study states that gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, appreciate good experiences and deal with adversity, which in turn improves health and builds strong relationships.
Psychology Today magazine sites numerous studies showing that specific areas of the brain are involved in experiencing and expressing gratitude. Brain scans of people assigned a task that stimulates expression of gratitude show lasting changes in the prefrontal cortex that heighten sensitivity to future experiences of gratitude.
Gratitude is not tied to any specific religious affiliation, contrary to many people’s opinion. Gratitude simply implies a feeling of thankfulness toward the world. Many Americans habitually “say grace” before eating a meal and many offer bedtime prayers. These are terrific examples of gratitude, but are in no way necessarily tied to any one spiritual belief.
Simple Gratitude Practices
Experts from kidshealth.com to the National Council on Aging agree that simple gratitude practices enhance daily life and add positivity to every person’s outlook. Every person, regardless of age or circumstance, can begin to feel the benefits of a grateful heart by implementing three simple practices:
Set Aside Time and a Set Time
Even if it’s just 10 minutes, your attention to the practice of gratitude is a great step toward living a more gracious life. Schedule time, just like you schedule taking your medication or brushing your teeth, to think of three things you are grateful for. It may be the same three day after day, or it may be three new things each time. Your things may be as personal as a good night’s rest or as universal as “nature.” One of the beautiful things about beginning a gratitude practice is that it is yours. It is personal. No one can or will judge you in this.
Start a Gratitude Journal
My aunt Nin was a prolific writer. She wrote every single day. Upon her death, I could not wait to get a look at her memories. And they were simple. Usually there was something about the weather. Often a note about who had come to visit (or called) during the day. Nothing big or earth shattering or even, by most estimations, important. But she made a note of each little thing that touched her heart each day. She exemplified grateful.
Pay It Forward
My grandmother had a cross-stitched sampler on her kitchen wall that read, “A pain that shared is but half a trouble; happiness shared is a joy made double.” And it really is that simple. When you offer a word of encouragement to a friend or make a point of smiling as you pass someone in the hallway, you spread happiness.
Health Benefits of a Grateful Heart
In 2020, perhaps more than any time in history, many things feel beyond our control, so it is empowering to remember that simply being thankful can have many positive health effects, including:
- more intimate and connected relationships,
- less depression,
- more motivation and engagement in daily activities,
- better overall mental well-being.
Gratitude is simple, uplifting, empowering and scientifically proven.
And if you still doubt it, just ask my Aunt Nin.
By Susie Fagan