It costs nothing to say thank you. Yet cultivating gratitude in your life may be one of the most rewarding moves you can make. Not only does it invoke warm fuzzies in everyone involved, expressing your appreciation may actually improve your health and well-being.
A landmark study by gratitude researcher Robert A. Emmons has shown that gratitude can reduce physical illness symptoms and toxic emotions. It can even help you sleep better and longer, according to a study published in Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being.
So what are some ways you can make gratitude part of your everyday life? Here are a few tips to help you get started:
- Write it out. Write out what you’re thankful for in your life. This may mean making a nightly habit of writing in a journal or jotting down a message to a loved one and giving it to them. You could also make some sticky note reminders of what you’re grateful for and hang them on your mirror to read each morning.
- Share a good memory. Reminiscing often stirs up feelings of gratitude. For instance, think about the time you first met a close friend in grade school. Contact them and tell them how grateful you are that it happened. Send a photo of that family vacation when you all shared a common experience like learning to water ski. When you think about it, you will quickly discover happy memories to share with loved ones.
- Offer your service. Show your gratitude through your actions. If you appreciate your community, join a group to clean up the park and streets. Provide a positive online review for your favorite local café. Or volunteer at a Veterans Affairs hospital.
- Lend an ear. Some of the most meaningful moments involve simply being heard. Return the favor. If your sister is usually the one who lets you ramble on about work grievances and family drama, it’s time to give her a turn. Let her know you’re there and ready to listen. Maybe you avoid your chatty (albeit helpful) coworker. When you see them next, give them 5 minutes of your time.
- Pay it forward. Did your neighbor share a gutter-cleaning hack with you? Next time you see someone on your street cleaning their gutters, offer to lend a hand. See a mom digging for spare change at a checkout register? Pay it for her. Let the appreciation of your good deed change someone else’s outlook for the day. When they offer to pay you back, just tell them to pay it forward.
There are opportunities to cultivate gratitude all around us. Refocusing on what you appreciate on a regular basis can help you live a healthier, more satisfying life.
Sources: SSA.gov, 17th Annual Retirement Survey, Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®