By Vickie Taylor, LCSW
Previously Published in Issue 90 of The Journey
Do you want to strengthen your immune system, lower the level of cortisol (stress hormone) in your body, reduce depression, improve sleep, reduce your blood pressure, increase your self-esteem, and improve how you see the world? If yes, try the practice of gratitude. Grateful people tend to have more positive coping strategies, feel higher levels of control in their lives, deal with problems directly and effectively (vs. denying or avoiding), have more self-acceptance, see more purpose in their lives, and have fewer negative thoughts and a more positive outlook on life.
The practice of gratitude is not a Pollyanna view of the world. It means that we acknowledge the pain, difficulties, and sorrow in each of our lives and we also recognize, acknowledge, and appreciate that we are the recipients of many acts of kindness and goodness. Gratitude is not simply an attitude; rather it is a practice. Here are some simple strategies that you can try if you want to practice gratitude:
Keep a journal.
Each day write down 3 things for which you are grateful. Use this sentence to help you structure your thoughts: I am grateful to __________ for __________.
Share gratitude at the dinner table.
Each person says one thing from that day for which he or she is grateful.
Take time to smell the roses.
Slow down and notice what is around you by using all five senses.
Practice “Stop, breathe, remember”.
Stop when waiting in line, at a red light, etc. Take a slow breath in and out Remember a message that is powerful to you
- I am loved
- It’s going to be a good day
- I have plenty of time to do what needs to be done
Take a 20-minute walk by yourself every day for a week.
Notice as many positive things around you as you can: sights, sounds, smells, other sensations. Acknowledge each one of these positive things in your mind. Identify what it is about each thing that makes it pleasurable. Silently give thanks for each thing you identify.
Say “Thank you!”
Write a letter of appreciation to someone who has had a positive impact on your life. Schedule a visit with that person, if possible. If not, plan a phone call when that person has time to talk. Read the letter to that person, then give it to him/her. If it is not possible to call or visit, imagine how the person would respond to your letter. Gratitude amplifies the good, rescues us from the grip of negativity, and connects us with the goodness in our lives. Look for the good, receive the good, and give back the good.