Many of us have heard about a myriad of benefits to being consistently grateful. With the approach of Thanksgiving I was curious to explore if there are proven positives to fostering an attitude of gratitude. I was pleasantly surprised (and grateful) to find multiple articles and papers written about this subject supporting it. There are 3 major studies that were instrumental in emphasizing the importance of gratitude. Senior citizens can sometimes find it challenging to be grateful due to chronic health issues,mobility problems, cognitive difficulties, and lost loved ones. Anyone who is in regular contact with or is a caregiver for a senior can help shift their focus to appreciation with some simple suggestions.
Psychology studies state that there are emotional, social, personality, career, and health benefits to being more grateful. There are studies since about 2003 showing that emotionally those who pay attention to what is good in their life instead of what is bad are more likely to feel positively about their life. A study in 2015 on the effects of gratitude on depression, coping, and suicide showed that it is a protective factor when it comes to suicidal ideation. Enhancing our own practice of gratitude can help protect us when we are weakest. It can improve our relationships with friends and family when we can truly appreciate each other without expectations. People who are grateful tend to be more likeable, generous, optimistic and spiritual.
Living gratefully also has physical health benefits over time. Studies show that people sleep better, eat more, are more proactive about their health, and even have less pain. Meditation and prayer can lower the heart rate and blood pressure. A study out of Harvard Medical School in 2016 found that acute coronary syndrome patients experienced greater improvements in quality of life and reduction in depression and anxiety when they approached recovery with gratitude and optimism.
The easiest way to bring more gratitude into your life and experience some of these benefits is gratitude journaling. Before going to sleep, finish each day with a simple entry of 3 things you were grateful for that day. They can be small things like the taste of fresh coffee in the morning or how the rain sounds or people in your life who are important to you. Take a few deep breaths and think about all the many things you experienced on this glorious day. Every study I found suggested daily journaling as an excellent way to bring more gratitude into your life and reap the many benefits! When you encounter any senior citizen, try and say something positive, pointing out the nice weather or how they are dressed can have a significant impact on someone who is lonely.