Gratitude is the sense of appreciation for someone or something. Practicing gratitude is extremely powerful: it has the ability to improve mood, behaviour, self-esteem, and to shut down the stress response, which helps us manage stress. Practicing gratitude is about switching our mindset from a negative thought to a positive thought, which is where all these benefits stem from.
It is very easy to focus on the negative, and in fact, our human brains tend to be drawn to the negatives rather than the positives. This means it takes conscious effort and work to practice gratitude; it does not come naturally.
Gratitude can be anything that you are feeling thankful for, appreciative of, or feeling lucky to have or experience. Some examples may be a special person in your life, the beauty of nature, a great experience you had, or anything else that brings you joy. There are no rules when it comes to gratitude! But there are some steps to making it a regular practice:
- Consciously think or journal about it daily. For example, maybe you start a gratitude journal where each evening you write down one thing you are grateful for in the day. If you are a member of My Viva Plan, the daily reflections section has a spot specifically for this. Another option is to take a daily photo of something you are grateful for. Over time you will be able to look back at a wonderful collage of photos that bring you joy.
- Act upon your gratitude. For example, if you are thankful or grateful for somebody in your life, go and tell them! This act will benefit both yourself and the person you are grateful for. Acting on your gratitude, vs just thinking about it, results in even bigger health impacts as described above.
- Learn to incorporate gratitude while going about your day to reap the benefits it has on reducing stress. Next time you find yourself in a stressful situation, such as being stuck in traffic, start listing off different things you are grateful for. You will likely begin to feel the calming effects this has on you!
By Katrina DuBois, Registered Dietitian
Revive Wellness Inc.