No doubt, 2020 has been a year for the record books. The pandemic, a national election, fires, hurricanes—you name it, we’ve experienced it all! For baby boomers and older adults, much of the assault on our physical, mental, and financial wellbeing has been completely out of our control. And as a result, it’s been easy to complain and feel hopeless.
But research is stepping in, helping us find ways to lift our spirits. Surprisingly, one of the easiest avenues is to experience gratitude on a regular basis.
While it may seem counterintuitive to quantity and study a feeling like gratitude, and the research is still in its infancy, there is now a growing field of evidence showing true possibilities. So let’s take a closer look at this attitude and find ways to increase it, especially during this week of Thanksgiving.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” It’s remembering to say thank you at the check-out stand, praising a family member for a shared meal, and taking time to appreciate a sunset. And best of all, it’s something you can do, every day.
The research I mentioned is finding that gratitude can help you feel more positive about life, improve your health, better deal with adversity, shift your emotions away from negative feelings, and even build stronger relationships. Exactly what we all need right now!
Experiencing gratitude not difficult, and it’s not a secret. So here are some specific ways to cultivate this feeling from the Harvard Medical School.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person’s impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you, and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts about the gifts you’ve received each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Although people often focus on a word or phrase (such as “peace”), it is also possible to focus on what you’re grateful for (the warmth of the sun, a pleasant sound, etc.).
My heartfelt thank you to those who are regular readers of my blog, as well as those who just tune in every once in awhile. I truly appreciate your support! Happy Thanksgiving to you and your loved ones.
And for more ways to boost your spirits, please reach out to me.