Gratitude: Why we need it in our lives and how to incorporate it into your day

Harvard Medical School defines gratitude as ‘a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives…As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature or a higher power”.

There are countless research articles on gratitude, a quick database search brings up more than 1.4million results. Many conclude that practising it regularly leads to benefits in emotional wellbeing and relationships. One study even linked the regular practice with improved well being including improved sleep and increased exercise. Research is an essential tool to inform good practice and transforms the way health professionals can deliver the best treatment and outcomes for their patients. However despite all the research and trials in the world, the best trial you can do is on yourself. Especially when it comes to gratitude.

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Mike Chuter and Kim McDonnell. Post continues after audio.

How to incorporate gratitude into your day

The best thing about practising gratitude is it doesn’t require an fancy gadget, you don’t need to go out and buy something new. You won’t need to wait for something to happen or rely on someone else. You can start gratitude right now, reading this blog post. It’s as easy as thinking about three things you are grateful for today.

There is nothing too small to be grateful for. In fact when we practice gratitude it is the little things that we start to feel most grateful for. Maybe it is the way someone made you feel, maybe it is the ability to exercise, maybe you are grateful for the family or friends you surround yourself with. You can be grateful for a delicious meal, for your morning coffee, for the sun shining or the rain pouring.

There are countless things to be grateful for and once you start acknowledging them it will change your perspective on life. The most important thing with incorporating gratitude is to do it regularly. Below are our top tips for incorporating it into your schedule:

  • At dinner every night have each person at the table share what they are grateful for that day
  • Keep a journal or notebook next to your bed where you can record three things you are grateful for before going to sleep. (On a side note, what an amazing way to end your day and go to sleep? Thinking about things that made you happy that day)
  • Practice gratitude on the way to work by taking mental notes
  • Every time you brush your teeth spend the time thinking about the things you are grateful for
  • When waiting for your morning coffee take the time to think about/write the things you are grateful for

Listen: Dr. Ron Ehrlich interviews Tim Brown. Post continues after audio.

This list is fairly endless, it’s about finding a small amount of time in your day to practice gratitude. Find what works for you and make it a habit. Take note of the way gratitude makes you feel inside, how your relationships change, if your stress levels change and how you react to situations. Gratitude is something I explore in A Life Less Stressed as being integral to good health.

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