Good health and gratitude go hand-in-hand. It goes without saying that we are grateful for things like a roof over our heads and food on the table, a good job, friends, and family. We’re grateful for many things, both big and small. I’m grateful for all of the above and I’m also grateful for my latte, my workout, my internet access, for example. Cultivating gratitude is one way for us to improve our well-being, physically and mentally. Good health is one of the side effects of the regular practice of gratitude. The idea is that, when we take the time to reflect on what we’re grateful for, we tend to have a more positive outlook on life in general. Recent research suggests that our bodies have a positive physical reaction to gratitude.
Regular practice of gratitude may have the following benefits:
-Get a better night’s sleep
-Make healthier choices
When you think about it, this makes sense. When we pause to think about a setback (Ok, this situation didn’t work out as I’d hoped or planned but I do still have this…) we are able to reframe our perspective. There’s a kind of snowball effect to this process. When we reduce stress, we can get a better night’s sleep. When we’re well-rested, we might feel less snippy towards our loved ones. And that good night’s sleep means we might make healthier choices, like avoiding stress eating or getting in that workout. A prescription for good health just might be taking the time to cultivate gratitude in our lives.
Looking to kickstart your gratitude? Here’s a list of prompts to get you started, and whether or not you write them down in a gratitude journal or not, they’re a way to start reflecting on those things in our lives, both significant and insignificant, for which we are grateful.
-Even if the day didn’t go the way you’d hoped, are you still grateful for the day?
-What are your favorite hobbies and/or activities? How do you feel when you take part in these activities?
-During the holidays, is there a favorite place you go to or tradition you do that you particularly enjoy?
-Has the week been too long or gone by way too fast? What are you thankful for at the end of this week? What are you looking forward to next week?
-Think about your friends, your family, your coworkers. What are some of the things you are thankful for about them?
-What did you do today that made you happy?
-Has someone helped you recently? Describe how that person helped you.
-Think about your home, your neighborhood, your town, or your city. What are you thankful for in these places?
-Name an accomplishment you are proud of, great or small.
-Have you ever hurt or offended someone? What did you do to make it right?
-What is your favorite guilty pleasure?
-What do you think are some of your “faults?” Are you impatient? A perfectionist? A procrastinator, etc? What are ways you can improve these “faults?”
Gratitude and good health are inextricably linked. From the more significant to the lesser, the practice of taking time to think about all that we are grateful for may have a significant impact on our overall health. Whether you take the time to journal or pause to reflect during the course of your day or week, cultivating gratitude may become the new “apple” that keeps the doctor away.