I don’t know where this year went, but it’s already November! This month traditionally brings falling leaves, cooler temperatures and Thanksgiving, but did you know it’s also National Gratitude Month?
Gratitude is more than just saying “thank you” to someone for something they did or said- it’s about appreciating the positive things in our lives every day. Some of the things I’m grateful for right now are my health, my family, and my colleagues at NCP.
What are you grateful for today? Let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you.
Health Benefits of Gratitude
Research shows that practicing gratitude is good for your mental and physical health. According to UCLA Health, practicing gratitude for 15 minutes a day, five days a week, for six weeks can improve your perspective and your mental wellness!
Here are a few ways that taking the time to feel thankful can improve your health:
Reduce depression: Practicing gratitude seems to reduce depression, but more research is needed to understand why. People who are grateful report feeling more satisfied, higher self-esteem, and stronger social relationships.
Lessen anxiety: Focusing on positive things helps keep you thinking about the present, which can help break the cycle of worrying and negative thoughts that people with anxiety experience.
Support heart health: Improving sleep, diet, exercise, and depressive symptoms can reduce the risk of heart disease. A review of some research found that keeping a gratitude journal helped reduce blood pressure, also.
Relieve stress: Gratitude helps calm the nervous system. Take a moment to be thankful, and it will cause physiological changes in your body such as lower blood pressure and a reduced heart rate.
Improve sleep: Thinking positive thoughts before bed can improve your sleep. Sleep quality is also impacted by stress, anxiety, and depression- so when those things are improved by practicing thankfulness, you’ll sleep better!
How to Practice Gratitude
Like me, you probably say “thanks” many times during the day out of habit, without really thinking about it. Next time you find yourself thanking someone, stop and think about what exactly you’re thankful for. Instead of reflexively saying “thanks,” be more specific about what they did- maybe the cashier was extra kind to your child, or the mail carrier delivered your mail in the rain. Thank them for it!
Here are a few other ways to get in the habit of being thankful:
Send thank you notes: When I was young, my mom made me write thank you notes for birthday and Christmas gifts. At the time, I didn’t enjoy it at all! But over time, I really enjoyed writing the notes and it grew into a larger practice of mailing letters, especially to my grandma. Take a few minutes to send a card- or an email- to someone when they give you a gift or do something nice for you.
Meditate: Spend a few minutes each day quietly thinking about the things you are grateful for that day. It can be as simple as food, shelter, and family.
Keep a gratitude journal: This has become a popular practice and you can find journals at almost any store. But you don’t need anything fancy- a simple notebook and pen works just fine. Get in the habit of writing down a few things you’re thankful for, and you’ll almost certainly notice a change in your mindset.
Something fun I started a few years ago is a Thanksgiving gratitude journal. I bought a pretty notebook at a local store, and every year I take it to all of our Thanksgiving gatherings with friends and family. We pass around the journal and everyone writes something they’re thankful for that year. Even the kids participate! It’s fun to look back at years past to see who we celebrated with, what everyone was grateful for, and even how the kids’ handwriting changed.
Here at NCP, we’re grateful for our panel members. We appreciate your loyalty and dedication to participating on our panel! We hope you find it rewarding as well.
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