2013 Faith (in) Wellness Challenge Week 19: Gratitude Practice
In following with our 52-week gratitude challenge, today’s post fits with last week (May 20) in the calendar year.
Gratitude has long been touted as a resource for staying positive, humble and spiritually clean but lately, scientific research has been looking at the healthy effects a gratitude practice can also have on our physical, mental and emotional wellbeing.
Studies have found practicing gratitude can increase your physical health and help you sleep better, release stress and even reverse the cardiovascular effects of persistent negative thinking!
In America, gratitude is an important part of our history, with an entire day dedicated to giving thanks. In many spiritual traditions, gratitude is expressed before meals and during prayer. But if you don’t have a particular religious ritual that emphasizes gratitude and you’re looking for the health effects on more than just one day a year in November, consider starting your own daily gratitude practice.
For one week, I kept a gratitude journal and tried to write down five things I was grateful for before I went to sleep. I kept it pretty consistent, although a couple days I was so tired I forgot. It actually was hard to come up with five things on some days and easier on others. Reflecting on my day in this way gave me a different perspective on how my day went and helped me end the day on a good note. If I could only think of negative things that happened, I would force myself to be grateful for the things causing my negativity. This did wonders in helping me let go of hard situations.
So how do you practice gratitude, anyway, you might ask?
There are several ways to do it, none of which take too much time or effort to complete. As with anything, it’s committing to doing it consistently that’s the tough part.
Create a bedtime gratitude ritual
Before you go to bed, think about five things you are grateful for that happened during the day. They can be large or small. The hardest part about this exercise is remembering to do it, especially if you’re really tired when you plop down into bed.
Start a gratitude journal
Buy yourself a nice journal, or even just a cheap one, and start writing down one thing you are grateful for each day. You don’t have to do it at any particular time of the day, and you don’t have to stick to just one thing if you’re having a super grateful(l) day. Sometimes, doing an activity at the same time each day will help you remember.
Make your own gratitude box
This one is fun and creative and can be a little more visible as a helpful reminder. Pick up a nice box at the store or decorate a shoe-box with a lid and place it somewhere prominent where you’ll see it every day. Next to the box, place a deck of index cards and a pen. Once a day, write one thing you’re grateful for and drop it in the box. Once you reach the end of the deck of cards, you can go back through and read about all the wonderful things that have happened to you in the recent past. Then recycle the cards and start again!
Practice gratitude at dinner
Every night at dinner make every person at the table name one thing he or she is grateful for. This makes it a family affair and is a great way to teach kids how to practice gratitude. It may even be a good excuse to spark dinner table conversation. If you don’t eat dinner together, choose breakfast, lunch or a different time of day when everyone is together (perhaps before you all sit down to watch your favorite TV show).
How do you practice gratitude? Let me know in the comments below!
Image Credit: dontstealmypen
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