Amanda Logan, C.N.P.
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Can expressing gratitude improve your mental, physical health?
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 decrease depression, anxiety, difficulties with chronic pain and risk of disease.
If a pill that could do this, everyone would be taking it. Your brain is designed to problem-solve rather than appreciate. You often must override this design to reap the benefits of gratitude.
What's 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.
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? 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 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. Try writing about the many blessings you may have taken for granted, such as having clean water or having certain abilities.
Our lives are full of reasons to feel thankful. Sometimes we need to remember to notice them.
Consider joining Mayo Clinic Health System's Discover Gratitude program. The virtual month-long program consists of daily journaling about thankfulness, mindfulness and kindness on journal sheets. Acknowledging gratitude and being mindful support a positive shift to improve your mental well-being and health.
Read more about gratitude and kindness:
- The art of kindness
- Recharge with a planned mental health day
- Kindness in action brings healthy rewards
- How to create happiness
Amanda Logan is a nurse practitioner in Family Medicine in Janesville, Minnesota.