The growing evidence about the importance of gratitude is impressive. The changes that occur physiologically are really exciting proof of the true connections between the mind and the body. The subjective mental wellness benefits are pretty amazing too. In our overly busy, excessively stressed modern lifestyle, a daily gratitude practice is the best value for your time and effort.
The Greater Good Project, through the University of California, Berkeley, finds that a regular gratitude practice can give people the following benefits:
- stronger immune systems
- lower blood pressure
- higher levels of positive emotions
- experience more joy, optimism and happiness
- act with more generosity and compassion
- feel less lonely and isolated
Wow right?! In a world where (sadly!) people are often taking prescription medications for some of these things....gratitude looks pretty amazing. During my fellowship with Dr. Andy Weil through the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine, the concept of the need for evidence versus the potential for harm came up often. As in things that are unlikely to cause any harm can be openly encouraged without much "evidence" necessary. A lot of lifestyle medicine fits in here - exercise, eating unprocessed diet full of fresh fruits and veggies, and mind-body practices like meditation, breath-work, and gratitude. Interventions with a higher potential for harm should be more carefully considered, for example prescription drugs and non-emergent or lifesaving surgeries. If it's not going to hurt, and it might help - then why not?!
So in practice, what does this look like? Lots of different options. Some people write things down in a journal everyday. Some people share them with friends or family. You may prefer to sit quietly and think about this alone at the beginning or end of each day. It's also a pretty amazing gift to teach your children to do this from a young age. We do this with our 2 year old, and while it's taken some practice and a lot of examples from us, the answers now are incredible. They run the gamut from practical ("shoes"), to funny ("mangoes and salsa"), to sweetly sentimental ("for a nice dinner with my family"). Give it a try for your family and see how it goes. Want more? Brene Brown is the Queen of Gratitude, a true expert.