This time of year, we are reminded to be thankful. To express gratitude for our foods, family, friends, and blessings. But what if we could harness these feelings and turn them into action? What if we practiced daily gratitudes for all the mundane daily blessings (and trials) in our lives throughout the year? Do we really believe that gratitude changes anything?
God teaches us to practice gratitude. In Psalm 107:8-9 it says, "Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and His wonderful deeds for mankind, for He satisfies the thirsty and fill the hungry with good things."
But why? Why is it so important to practice gratitude that Jesus Christ modeled it, even just hours before his crucifixion?
Why does God want our thanksgiving? Maybe it's not for Him. Perhaps He's given us a gift. A grateful heart that cultivates a healthy mind and body. One that can change our life.
A Grateful Happy Person
I want to be clear. This is not an admonition to be a grateful, happy person. We all have different God-given personalities. This list is about the practice of gratitude.
It's an action, not a feeling or personality.
In fact, in the end, we'll discuss ways to activate gratitude in your own life.
1. Gratitude Improves Our Attitude and Happiness
There are a million tiny things that drive us crazy each day.
A million things pulling us and rushing us.
It would be easy to focus on these.
But, you tend to get more of what you focus on.
When we are grateful, even with and through all the things that make us nuts, and we focus on what we appreciate in our lives and in others, gratitude changes us. It increases our happiness.
There is no perfect life, so we must learn to be grateful in the midst of all the imperfections. This is not easy, and we will fail at it time and time again.
But thankfully, we serve a mighty God who will help us with each gracious step.
2. Motivation for a Healthy Lifestyle
When we practice daily thanksgivings, gratitude changes us by empowering us with motivation towards are goals.
In fact, scientists have linked practicing gratitude with healthier choices. In studies, those who report more gratitude use of tobacco, engage in more exercise, and better food choices.
But of course, this could just be a reflection of a happy life.
Fortunately, they've also found that gratitude works as an intervention. "Gratitude intervention" studies have shown that 31% of gratitude-practicing participants quit smoking and maintained abstinence after 6 months, compared to the more common averages of 23% with a nicotine patch.
3. Stronger Heart and Less Sickness
Amazing, practicing gratitude changes our physical health, too.
In research, gratitude is associated with many good heart health outcomes including:
- Better cholesterol levels
- Lower your blood pressure D
- Decreased heart rate variability.
These markers all indicate better heart health.
What's more, practicing gratitude can also boost your immune system, which is certainly a year-round gift!
Studies show that the human body produces more disease-fighting cells when we are grateful and optimistic. As you'll read, its effect on cortisol also benefits the immune system.
4. Healthy Aging and Optimism
One of the most sought-after therapies for any mom surrounds healthy aging.
Having babies, taking care of them, and living decade after decade can take a toll on your body. It impacts energy, physical appearance, and our outlook.
Did you know gratitude changes these as well?
First, the biggest key for healthy aging is a sharp, healthy brain. One key factor to healthy aging is brain health.
Next, gratitude can change the way you see your physical appearance, which is a big factor in your joy with aging. This too, has been studied. When subjects specifically focus on body gratitude, or an appreciation for their own physical body, its appearance, and what it could do, both their body image and physical abilities improve.
Lastly, gratitude unlocks optimism, and optimism is the fountain of youth if there ever was one. In fact, a recent study has found that greater optimism is linked to longer lives.
5. Better Sleep for Weary Moms
The majority of moms could use better sleep. Try finishing your day with writing down gratitudes rather than worrying about stresses!
One study of 400 individuals found that writing gratitudes before sleep improves both the quality and duration of sleep.
Another study found that gratitude was linked to a 10% improvement in sleep and a 19% decrease in stress and depression levels in patients with chronic disease and insomnia.
Gratitude can help us all rest easier.
6. Stressed Out? Gratitude Offers less Stress and Anxiety
As we head into the most wonderful, but the busiest time of year, it's helpful that gratitude changes our stress levels.
As we focus on gratitude actions, we can welcome the Christmas season with less stress and anxiety.
In fact, gratitude decreases cortisol, the stress hormone, by up to 23% in studies.
This is good both for our mental and physical health.
High, chronic cortisol levels are associated with many chronic diseases including diabetes, heart health, and metabolic syndrome.
Since most of our modern stress is mental, and not physical, we often don't have an outlet for it, and it simply continues to increase in our bodies.
Additionally, gratitude changes brain health by:
- Increasing self-worth
- Improving emotional and mental resilience to overcome challenges
- Reducing negative emotions such as envy, regret, and resentment
- Lowering symptoms of, and the risk of depression
How Can a Mom Practice Gratitude?
Let Thanksgiving be your grand kick-off to a whole year of gratitude. To keep this habit going, try these steps.
- Set up a "gratitude time." This is often great before bed. List 5 gratitudes each night, and meditate on them.
- Keep a journal with you and write down daily gratitudes throughout the day that come to mind. Keep these in the same journal alongside the before-bed gratitudes.
- Need more inspiration? A wonderful book on gratitude is called 1000 Gifts by Ann Voskamp. The author recognizes gratitude throughout scriptures and how it can change our lives.
Gratitude changes everything, and it can absolutely change a mom's life. Don't see it as a personality or a once-per-year holiday. Rather, it's daily actions and recognitions of blessing, big and small. Put gratitude into practice and see your life changed this year!
Written by Kyle Colbert for The Healthy Moms Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.