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Expressing gratitude is associated with a host of mental and physical benefits. Studies have shown that feeling thankful can improve sleep, mood and immunity. Gratitude can also decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.
If there was a pill that could do this, we'd all be taking it. Our brains are designed to problem-solve rather than appreciate. And we often must override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude.
What is the right amount of gratitude?
Simply stated, gratitude should be practiced daily — just as you'd take that magic pill if it existed. Try starting your day by thinking of someone you're grateful for as soon as you wake up. It could be appreciating a friend who sends you funny texts, a teacher who recognizes your child's gifts or the barista who hands you your coffee and shares friendly conversation. Later, thank that person with a text, note or kind word when you see the person.
Behavior changes biology
Remember that behavior changes biology. Positive gestures benefit you by releasing oxytocin, a hormone that helps connect people. Some people call it the love hormone. Plus, you'll also benefit the person on the other end of the gesture. After all, who doesn't like to be thanked for their efforts or just for being who they are? Learn how sharing kindness can make you healthier and happier.
Track your gratitude
Another idea is to keep a gratitude journal. Set aside some time during your day, perhaps while you are attempting to relax your mind before sleep. Think back on your day and write down the things that went right. Maybe your spouse took care of a household repair, you heard your favorite song on the radio or you saw a double rainbow. You could try writing about the many blessings that you may have started to take for granted, such as having clean water to drink or having certain abilities.
Our lives are full of reasons to feel thankful. Sometimes we just need to remember to notice them.
Consider joining Mayo Clinic Health System's Discover Gratitude program to start your kindness journey. The program offers many ideas of how to extend kindness.