We are entering the season of the holidays, a time when we think of gratitude more often than at any other time in the year. But should this be just a seasonal practice?
Bringing attention to what you are grateful for is a routine that anyone can employ — children, adults, and seniors. This habit not only benefits you but also benefits the people around you, lifting spirits and improving health. And who doesn't like to be thanked for their efforts or good deeds?
There are no rules about gratitude. You can feel gratitude as infrequently or as often as you want. It can be about the small things in your life (you had a nice snuggle with your dog before your day of work) or big things such as your health, safety, and loved ones.
The Paseo Club is a social club in the Santa Clarita Valley that supports members in fitness, health, and wellness. The Paseo Club community knows that health involves caring for the body and the mind, which is why we wanted to write this article for you.
In this article, you will learn about what gratitude is, how gratitude affects health, and ways you can practice gratitude in your life.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is not just a warm fuzzy feeling we are overcome by. According to Robert Emmons, a scientific expert on gratitude, gratitude can be defined scientifically. He describes gratitude as being made of two distinct components.
The first part is that gratitude affirms goodness exists in the world, and we receive its benefits.
Second, we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. Other people, pets, nature — or even higher powers — give us many gifts, big and small.
The 18 benefits of feeling grateful
Gratitude has measurable benefits in just about every area of our lives — our physical health, emotional/mental well-being, and relationships.
Gratitude strengthens new neural pathways in the brain. Over time, this trains your brain to focus on what is going well and not on stressors or hardships. This habit can shift a person’s perspective from a pessimistic to an optimistic outlook on life.
4. Reduces Depression
Gratitude lowers depression and lessens anxiety by interrupting negative thought patterns and helping bring your attention to positive ones, thus interrupting unfavorable commentary. This approach is effective for people with mild to severe depression.
Behavior changes biology. Positive gestures benefit your physical health and lifestyle choices.
The new research shows that counting the things you are grateful for (not sheep!) is a reliable method of getting good sleep. Participants in the study noted that their sleep period lasted longer than usual, and they felt more refreshed in the morning.
For the number crunchers, bottom-line folks who scoff at the notion of gratitude being the healing balm for modern culture, you will be happy to learn that practicing gratitude saves money. Yup, it’s true.
You may feel like buying a new pair of shoes when you have a cruddy day, but it actually hurts you financially and increases stress. Practicing gratitude reduces impulse buying and helps you stay within your budget.
18. Gratitude is Free
Often we turn to material things to express appreciation — a bottle of wine, a bouquet, a box of chocolates. But sharing with someone what you are grateful about is free and likely will make a lasting (and favorable) impression.
How to develop a practice of gratitude
Practicing gratitude can be as simple or elaborate as you want. Here are some ideas on how to integrate more gratitude into your life.
Keep a gratitude journal
Choose one person every day to tell how grateful you are for them.
Integrate listing what you are grateful for into your prayer or meditation practice
Create a thankful-grateful roundtable for your family that is shared when you gather for dinner
Write letters to friends, family, or members of your community (your family doctor, the local firefighters, your child’s teacher) to express your gratitude for them.
Gratitude is not only an act of self-care, it is an act of generosity to those around you.
The Paseo Club is only as great as it is because of the laughter, shared stories, and words of encouragement shared among staff, instructors, and members each and every day.
Jen Azevedo is a person of many talents. She is a tennis professional, pickleball professional, personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and the general manager of the Paseo Club. She loves the community at the Paseo Club and that it is also a safe and fun place for her daughter. Jen’s favorite activities are joining her tribe for trail races or her partners for tennis matches. Occasionally Jen slows down to relax with a book — she reads over 100 a year!