Studies show that people who practice feeling grateful benefit from lower blood pressure, an improved immune system, and they even sleep better at night. Grateful people feel more optimistic, and are better in tune with themselves and their feelings. Their positive emotions calm the nervous system and possibly decrease their cortisol levels, the hormone that is activated under stressful situations. Chronic high cortisol levels can be injurious, so keeping it at bay helps protect their health.
Besides, it’s more fun to feel grateful and happy than not. It’s just a more pleasant way to go through life. But what happens if you’re not a grateful person by nature? You’re in luck. (Something to be grateful for!) All you have to do is think about being grateful and you’ll become more grateful. You can actually learn to be grateful.
Here are some ideas for you:
- Notice the little, good things. How the late afternoon sun filters through the trees. How your spouse throws her head back and laughs with wonderful abandon. How your dog practically wags his tail right off when he sees you. Really, you’ll find there are endless things to be grateful for once you get the hang of it.
- Don’t wait to be grateful. Everything in your life doesn’t have to be perfect before you can be grateful. You don’t have to have everything you want or be everything you want before you can appreciate your life. Recognize that your life is a journey and you might as well feel grateful on your way.
- Learn from your experiences. Even bad experiences can teach you something. I have a friend who was in an abusive relationship, which, of course, was not good for her. But she did say that her abuser was her teacher—he taught her patience and how to survive under horrible circumstances. She emerged from the experience a stronger person, and she was grateful for that.
- Recognize your feelings. While it’s great to be grateful, pay attention to your authentic feelings. You do not have to feel like you have to make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear all the time. My friend in the abusive relationship was miserable, and there was no use pretending she wasn’t. She was grateful for the person she had become after she escaped—she was not grateful for her suffering.
- Understand you have what you need. You probably don’t have everything you want. And it’s great to have goals and ambitions for all sorts of things and experiences. But chances are you have enough food to eat. You have a roof over your head, and a place to rest it at night. In other words, you have the basics, even while you may want more. If you think about the many people in the world who do not—who find themselves in war torn countries or places where there is no access to medicine or the barest minimum of nourishment—well, you’re in pretty good shape. Something to be grateful for.
Nancy Travers is an Orange County Counseling professional. If you need safe, effective counseling services, please get in touch. You can reach her here: https://www.nancyscounselingcorner.com/contact-us.