How a Gratitude Practice can Enhance Your Brain Health
In recent years, researchers have studied how what they call a gratitude practice can be beneficial to seniors (and people of all ages, for that matter). Specifically, research demonstrates that a gratitude practice can enhance brain health. You can embrace a gratitude practice in several different ways, according to the experts:
- Write gratitude letters
- Keep a gratitude journal
- Use a gratitude app
- Start your morning with gratitude
- Share your gratitude for the ones you love
- Choose a gratitude theme for the day
- Practice makes perfect
“When we practice gratitude, our emotional well-being is focused on positive outlooks, which encourages a resilient psychological perspective and gives a feeling of happiness and contentment,” explains Kristin Larsen, a transformational health coach and author of Joy of Being. The book is described as a reflection journal workbook that helps others be present in their lives on a consistent basis.
Alexander Burgemeester, a neuropsychologist and founder of The Narcissistic Life, adds that gratitude is one of the best feelings you can have in the course of your day, week, month – life. “It feels good to be thankful for those around you and for the small things in life,” he writes. He adds that being grateful can help you not be resentful and may allow your brain to be more positive overall.
This is because gratitude has been connected to the dopamine release in the brain, the neurotransmitter that gives us that happy feeling. “Practicing gratitude in your everyday life can help you not only feel better but over time can help you to think more positively instead of negatively towards everything around you,” Burgemeester adds.
Write Gratitude Letters
With email, traditional handwritten letters have somewhat gone out of style. Accepting that reality, writing a short letter or sending someone a card with a pleasant note of thanks can be a beneficial thing to do – both for the recipient of the personal communication and the writer himself or herself.
Research studies suggest that writing the letter itself can lift one’s spirits and help put the writer in a better mood. Take a moment to purchase some cards and keep them in your desk drawer. In the alternative, keep some personalized stationery handy so you can draft a nice letter whenever you have someone you’d like to thank or convey a message of gratitude.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Purchase a journal that fits your style. You can order a journal online or pick up one at a brick-and-mortar world bookstore. Research studies demonstrate that writing down what you are grateful for can help you feel happier.
Every night before bed, pick up a pen and jot down three to five things that you are thankful for at the moment, things that have happened during the day. These notations need not be anything major or earth-shattering. They can be very basic things that happened during the day that made you feel good or that brought a smile to your face.
Use a Gratitude App
If writing in a journal is not your style, download a gratitude app on your tablet or smartphone. These apps have spaces and prompts to help you record things you are thankful for at any given time. They are easy to use, including for people who are in their Golden Years and who are not necessarily tech-savvy. Here are a few free gratitude apps to try:
Start Your Morning with Gratitude
Start the day with a dose of gratitude. For example, think of three things you are grateful for first thing in the morning, perhaps even before you climb out of bed to start your day. A morning gratitude practice can effectively set a positive, healthy, and happy tone for the day. You can start the day on a positive note with a morning gratitude practice.
Share Your Gratitude with the Ones You Love
“Another really great practice is to share with your spouse or your children (or grandchildren) at the end of the day (or weekly), three ways you appreciate them for their actions or for simply being who they are throughout that day,” says Heather Placken, a certified Happy For No Reason Trainer in Ontario, Canada. You could tell your spouse that you appreciated how he or she made you dinner last night or thank your child (or grandchild) for driving you to your recent doctor’s appointment, for example.
Choose a Gratitude Theme for the Day
“You can choose water to be your theme, for example,” recommends Placken. For example, every time you wash your hands, do dishes, water plants, take a shower or bath, get a drink, brush your teeth, or even flush the toilet, for even one day, notice and appreciate the water, its uses and how it makes your life easier and provides value to your existence. “This encourages you to be present in the moment and to be purely grateful for having the luxury of water in your life,” Placken explains.
The following day, choose a different theme to focus on as you go about the morning, afternoon, and evening. Maybe the choice is food. Every time you cook, eat, or think about recipes or preparing a meal, express gratitude for everything and everyone involved in bringing your meal to your table. This can include everyone and everything from the farmers who grew or raised your food to the soil on which crops were grown to the truckers who delivered your vegetables.
Practice Makes Perfect
Experts in personal development call it a “gratitude practice” for a reason. According to James Clear, habits, decision making and continuous improving expert, studies indicate it can take anywhere from 18 to 254 days for people to form a new habit. Start small and find ways to work more gratitude into your daily life. A gratitude practice can include something as simple as saying “thank you” more often, writing it down, or shifting negative thoughts to those of gratitude. As the days progress, this is apt to become a part of your daily life. Eventually, you’ll find gratitude becoming a standard expression in your life on a regular and recurring basis.