Practice Gratitude to Change Your Attitude
Published Monday, February 27, 2023
Haley Shipston, Health Promotion Project Assistant
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, or a readiness to show appreciation and return kindness. When we think of gratitude, our minds tend to steer towards “thank you”. How many times in a day do you say those words? What was it that you were grateful for?
Small expressions of gratitude towards others can affect both the receiver and the performer of the act. Acts of gratitude stimulate parts of the brain that control emotions, which can reduce stress and promote good health. Gratitude follows the same logic as muscle memory; the more you use it, the easier it will be to utilize and the more gratitude you will have. Studies suggest that gratitude may also help strengthen relationships, improve the immune system, help sleep patterns and decrease feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Gratitude can be practiced in multiple dimensions - past, present and future. Recalling positive past memories, not allowing the positives of the present pass you by and remaining hopeful towards the future are all ways to practice gratitude. What are examples of gratitude past, present and future for yourself?
With that said, practicing gratitude does not promote sweeping difficulties or struggles under the rug. Gratitude promotes taking a moment to appreciate how far you have come, and reflect on the good and the bad. Without the bad, how can we appreciate the good? Gratitude helps you to refocus on what is ready and available in front of you instead of waiting and yearning for more.
Gratitude can be intimidating; is it as simple as saying please and thank you or holding the door open for your neighbour? While maintaining your manners and caring for the person next to you is important, there are ways that you can dive deeper into gratitude.
Three ways to practice gratitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal or write a gratitude letter. Having a visual reminder and a time in your day to count your blessings and all the small moments of joy can help strengthen your ability to handle stress. Research has shown that the act of journaling or writing a letter - whether you send it or not - have the same benefits.
- Try a breathing exercise or mindful body scan. Taking a moment to centre and collect ourselves leaves us more receptive and open to the positive experiences and emotions around us.
- Perform a random act of kindness. Doing so will not only benefit the receiver but will also benefit the person performing the act and may inspire others to continue the chain.
For more ideas on how to practice gratitude, visit https://www.psychologytoday.com/ca/basics/gratitude