To improve your health, practice gratitude

A daily gratitude practice has been shown to significantly increase your happiness — and your physical health. Practicing gratitude improves sleep, boosts immunity and decreases the risk of disease.

By Amit Sood, M.D.

Ever wish there were a magic pill you could take to boost your energy levels, improve your mood, help you sleep better, increase your kindness and even help you make more money? Unfortunately, no such pill exists, but there is a way you can reap these benefits — without a visit to the doctor's office.

The secret? A daily gratitude practice. Indeed, counting your blessings each day has been shown to significantly increase your happiness — and your physical health. In addition to helping you get more sleep, practicing gratitude can boost your immunity and decrease your risk of disease.

Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Write in a gratitude journal every day. Jot down quick notes. They can be as simple as something funny one of your children did or a kind gesture from a stranger at the grocery store. Any positive thoughts or actions count, no matter how small.
  • Use gratitude cues. Any new habit needs reminders, and cues are a great way to stay on course. Keep photos visible of things or people that make you happy. Post positive notes or inspirational quotes on the fridge or by your computer to reinforce feelings of gratitude.
  • Make a gratitude jar. Keep an empty jar, scratch paper and a pen in an accessible place at home. Ask family members to write on a piece of paper one thing that they're grateful for every day and drop it in the jar. Encourage them to be funny. During dinner or leisure time, take a few of the notes out of the jar and enjoy reading one another's thoughts.

The goal is to move your mind from thinking about gratitude occasionally to making it second nature. Eventually, you'll lower your gratitude threshold so that you're grateful for little things — and you'll learn how to sprinkle a little gratitude throughout your day.

Adapted from "The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness," by Amit Sood, M.D. Learn more about the book and about Dr. Sood's Resilient Living program.

Experiments

  1. Think of one thing or person you're grateful for when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.
  2. Use meditation as an opportunity to practice gratitude. Take a few minutes each day to close your eyes, breathe in and out slowly, and focus your mind on positive thoughts.
  3. Feeling uninspired at work? Find one thing you're grateful for about your job each day. It can be as simple as appreciating lunch with a friendly colleague.
Nov. 30, 2016 See more In-depth

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