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Gratitude is often something we offer others when they do something that is favorable to us. It is good to show others we appreciate them, right? When was the last time you showed yourself some gratitude?
Gratitude is just one piece of the self-care puzzle we all hear about. Everything from blogs to magazine articles has touted the need to take care of yourself, so you can live a (mentally) healthier life. It sounds so simple! Just be grateful! Yet, showing yourself that appreciation is much easier said than done.
It is not uncommon for people to have a hard time being grateful to themselves. Whether they are grateful for good weather to go for a walk or that extra pound they worked so hard to lose. However, studies have shown that gratitude for yourself and your life can actually change your brain chemistry to see more good over time. After all, you are what you surround yourself with. Good generates more positivity and changes your whole outlook. Suddenly your life and your being look much better in time.
Harvard Medical School posted an article in 2021 talking about exactly that. Through their research, they found that the people who focused on the positives in their lives were not only much happier, but they were also healthier! Often they would exercise more and visits to the doctor became less frequent.
The study is no surprise to anyone who has bothered to watch how outwardly expressed gratitude has affected recipients. When was the last time someone thanked you for a specific action? Think about how that made you feel. You felt good, right? Well, self-gratitude is simply appreciating yourself enough to be thankful for moments and actions within your own life.
Now that you have an idea of what happens when you build gratitude internally, what does it take to make that happen? While there are many sources around the internet to help you answer that question, Mindful.org offers a wealth of information on how you can make those changes in your life. Their introduction to self-gratitude (called mindful gratitude on their page) lists a variety of ideas to help you get started. Maybe you even have some of your own?
Nonetheless, here are some common approaches you may enjoy.
1. Keep a gratitude journal. Journaling your gratitude serves two purposes. First, you are cementing the positivity with the act of writing it out. However, it also gives you a place to go when you feel a little more negative than usual or you are going through a rough period in your life.
2. Use your negative memories to remind you of how far you have come rather than as fuel for a dumpster fire. Those hurdles might have felt more like mountains and you should be proud you overcame them!
3. Consider using situation-specific gratitude. Are you having a rough time with your job? Write out 3 things a day that are positive about your job. It may start with the fact you can pay your bills, but eventually, you might find you appreciate Karen’s antics during the day as comedic relief.
4. Unwritten gratitude can also kickstart change in your life. Not everyone has time to write. While it is beneficial to keep a journal of what is good, do not discount what your brain can do on its own. Slow down and live in the moment more. If you notice something that speaks volumes, mentally note how grateful you are for that experience. Wake up in the morning, look outside, and just tell yourself, “This is a beautiful day and I am grateful to experience it.” Then, go experience that day! If you notice a particularly kind gesture, take a moment to consider how that gesture made you grateful you were there in that moment. Stopping to take a mental note can help us recognize what is really good. Later, once you have taught yourself to slow down in the moment, you can start a physical journal.
5. Sometimes the best way to feel gratitude is to share it. The article from Harvard also noted the behaviors of employees when their managers simply say, “Thank you.” Sharing gratitude is just as therapeutic as giving it to yourself. Simply let someone know when you really appreciate them. Then both of you can feel good.
The next time you are feeling a little down, I hope you will take a moment to find something good to grasp onto. Gratitude is a shield against negativity, and it is your chance to remind yourself of all the things you value in life.
Harvard Medical School (2021) https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
Photo by Alina Vilchenko: https://www.pexels.com/photo/photo-of-person-holding-cup-3363111/
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