By Maya Lightfoot, CFSU(O) Health Promotion Specialist –
As we approach the Holiday season, it’s very important to reflect on the many things we should be grateful for, instead of being upset about things we don’t have. The bottom line is the more you choose to be grateful for things you have, the more benefits you will obtain. There are several scientifically proven benefits of gratitude that are worth changing our mindset for:
- Reduces stress: Gratitude promotes improved stress levels and helps to better manage life’s bigger stressors;
- Improves sleep quality: In a study with over 400 participants, it was found that having positive thoughts before bed improved quality, quantity and duration of sleep, whereas negative thoughts impaired a good night’s sleep;
- Improves physical health: Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and are more likely to take care of their health by attending regular checkups and exercising more often;
- Enhances relationships: Showing appreciation to others can enhance connections and friendships, but also can be beneficial to romantic relationships. Also in turn will reduce loneliness;
- Improves psychological health: Gratitude increases happiness and empathy, decreases depression, and helps to reduce toxic emotions like resentment, regret and envy; and
- Increases job performance and productivity: With greater energy, creativity, improved cognition and positive emotions, happy people get more from life. As Albert Schweitzer once said, “Success is not the key to happiness, happiness is the key to success”. In the workplace, this equates to better productivity, profitability, less absenteeism and improved quality of life.
These are just a few of the many benefits on choosing to be grateful, and finding the positive in situations versus focusing on the negative aspects. Cultivating gratitude is not limited to sharing what you are grateful around the dinner table. Here are a few ideas retrieved from Dr. Christine Carter’s book The Sweet Spot:
- Keep a gratitude journal. Every day, practice thinking about the things for which you are grateful. If you are not keen on recording your gratitudes in writing, consider the following alternatives.
- Happier mobile app: You receive alerts to record something that makes you happy every day, either by text or by publishing a photo. You can create a private group (e. g. your family) to share your gratitudes with each other.
- Send a text message of appreciation to someone who has helped you or for whom you are grateful.
- Drop or change (for a while) what you like so much. To deprive yourself of something you love seems counter-intuitive in enhancing well-being. On the other hand, gratitude naturally increases when we find ourselves in conditions of inadequacy. For example, when we are hungry, we are more grateful for the food than when we are satisfied.
- Sharing of gratitudes at family dinners or during the holidays. Depending on the comfort level of the group to share gratitudes, ask everyone to share a few words of gratitude during a meal. If you want the activity to be taken a little more seriously when you offer it, place a small blank card in front of each person and ask everyone to write a gratitude inside the card before dinner and then share it when the time is right during the meal.
- Thank you letter. Write a thank you letter (gratitude letter) to someone who is important to you or helped you but you did not have a chance to share it with them properly.
The Ottawa Health Promotion team would be grateful to see you at one of our many workshops to help you improve other aspects of health!
How many things are you grateful for? Let’s start counting the ways!
This post is also available in: Français (French)