Practicing gratitude for health and happiness

Talk about a positive perk: By cultivating a spirit of gratitude, you actually end up with more to be thankful for.

When you make an effort to see the good in life, it feels good. You'll likely notice that you are happier-more content and less stressed. You'll also enjoy some nice health benefits. Some studies show that practicing gratitude may help:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Boost immune response.
  • Lower the risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders.

Four Ways to Grow in Gratitude

A grateful spirit may seem like it comes naturally to some people. But to nurture a habit of thankfulness, it helps to make a conscious choice, day by day. These practices can help you keep gratitude at the center of your day.

1. Savor your everyday life. Slow down and enjoy those things that bring you comfort and joy-but that can be easy to take for granted. A loved one's smile. A crisp, cold apple. A bright blue sky. A warm cup of tea.

2. Write it down. What makes you smile? Note it in a daily gratitude journal. It can truly make a difference in where your focus lies. It's hard to get stuck in the negative when you are busy counting-and writing about-your blessings.

Studies show that people who use a gratitude journal are more optimistic and enjoy better overall health. They tend to be more alert, determined, enthusiastic and energetic. They also:

  • Cope better with stressful life events.
  • Bounce back from illness faster.
  • Exercise more.
  • Sleep longer and enjoy better sleep quality.

So, big or small, find those moments from your day-or reflections on your life-to appreciate. It could be a kind word said, a helpful neighbor or a hearty laugh.

Writing it down will help you focus on the positive. And any time you need a lift, you can turn back to your journal and read those memories and moments.

3. Say thanks. Write a letter. Deliver it in person if you can. Let others know how much you appreciate them-their kindness, generosity, friendship, time, etc. You'll reap the benefits of a grateful deed and bring that person joy of their own.

4. Do for others. Reaching out and assisting those in need often reminds us of the good in the world. Even better, make volunteering a family affair-and teach your children the power of giving and gratitude.

© Coffey Communications, Inc.