Giving thanks isn’t just a nice thing to do this time of year. It may be one of the most powerful and simplest ways to reduce your own stress.
A growing body of research shows that feeling and expressing gratitude can have a significant impact on your physical and mental well-being, from boosting optimism to shoring up your immunity. Even your sleep may improve the more grateful you feel, which is something you can really give thanks for. Below are a few ways to use this stress-busting practice.
Keep a weekly gratitude journal.
Once a week, write down five things for which you are grateful. They can be small events, like a beautiful sunset or a magazine article that touched your heart. The important part is to actually get them on paper. According to research from UC Davis professor Richard Emmons, those who keep regular gratitude journals tend to exercise more, feel measurably better about their lives, and make progress toward attaining personal goals. Check out these tips from Emmons on how to make gratitude journaling even more effective.
Use visual cues.
“The two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness,” Emmons points out. “Visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.” Collect notes or objects that elicit feelings of gratitude and put them in different places so you see them throughout the day to help set your gratitude habit.
Play the part.
It’s okay if you’re not feeling especially grateful at any given moment. Even if you just go through the motions, Emmons says, you can trigger the positive effects of gratitude. It can be as simple as smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
Becky Karush is a writer living in southwestern New Hampshire. Visit her at lifestorycompany.com.