Happy November! In the US, it’s the month of the year that we have a full day dedicated to giving thanks. But why just give thanks on one day? Ideally, we should be taking time to reflect on what we are thankful for every day.
Sometimes it feels like life has dealt us an unfair hand. At these times, it can be difficult to not completely focus on what is going wrong. For example, this year I have found myself falling into the hole of “woe is me” more often than I would like to admit: toxic relationships, our cat dying, a bad case of pneumonia, and my house flooding and collapsing in on itself. But during the same time period, I also booked a trip with a close friend, indulged in long phone calls with soul-friends across the country, got to cheer on my mum as she finished a marathon in her 50th state, and spent time with my siblings laughing about things that no-one else would find funny. Being grateful for these moments is so important for mental health. We cannot control all of our circumstances. There will always be ups and downs, but we get to decide where we dedicate our attention.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF GRATITUDE
It’s not always easy, but ultimately choosing to focus on gratitude, rather than self-pity, is so important for mental and physical health. People who have a generally more grateful disposition report higher levels of physical health, and taking note of what you are grateful for on a regular basis improves sense of well-being and mood. So, this month, I encourage you to practice gratitude every day.
Studies have also shown that gratitude can help you sleep better, decrease stress and depressive symptoms, and lower blood pressure. Gratitude may also be correlated with improved quality of life for people with fibromyalgia, and decrease certain symptoms in PTSD. Also, a 2015 study showed that gratitude improved sleep mood and fatigue, as well as lowered inflammatory biomarkers, in heart failure patients.
This month I encourage you to consciously practice gratitude every day. Gratitude can be practiced in numerous ways. Be it just thinking about what you’re thankful for, actively telling people you appreciate them, sending thank-you notes, or writing down what you are grateful for - it all counts! That said, there is some evidence that gratitude journaling is more likely to increase wellness, just due to the fact that people tend to be more motivated to keep a gratitude journal than write letters of gratitude. Therefore, gratitude journalling can be a great way to start and maintain a daily gratitude practice. But of course, saying thank you and expressing appreciation more often just makes the world a better place over all!
One exercise that I have found to be sustainable and beneficial is to make a list of 3 things that you were thankful for each day, before bed. Even if you had a “bad day,” still make the list. I bet you can find things that you were grateful for! Even small pleasures and acts of kindness can make a huge impact on our days. By revisiting these moments at the end of the day, you end the day on a positive note, no matter what else happened during the day.
Thank you for reading <3
Dr. Khaira, ND