If “gratitude” is one of those words you regard as too spiritual or “new age-ish”, it’s time for a serious rethink especially if you intend to age well both physically and mentally.
It’s actually all about the 'attitude' part in GRATITUDE. Your attitude is observable by others and they react accordingly. When you pull up to the drive-thru at Dairy Queen and the young woman at the window has made a mess of your order, she might understandably expect you to be ill-tempered. When you smile unexpectedly instead of growling at her, she feels better, is grateful and is more likely to pass on your sense of well-being. The impact of gratitude is far reaching. It can be contagious in the same way that random acts of kindness and forgiveness are but gratitude definitely has the greatest impact on you.
The positive psychology movement has much to offer, even if you are a bit skeptical. It has been scientifically proven that those who score higher on the gratitude scale tend to be in better moods, have a better quality of sleep, experience less anxiety and less depression. Appreciating the good in our lives actually causes a change in physiology by balancing the rhythms of our heart and nervous systems which leads to beneficial changes in our immune systems and hormonal equilibrium. Interestingly, the same principles apply to older adults as to the young.
A healthy sense of gratitude deepens our capacity to live well--- both physically and mentally, however, it requires awareness and attention. This often translates into slowing down, being mindful, observing carefully, and truly celebrating your life as you live it. It involves being satisfied and being accepting of life as it plays out.
Instead of lamenting older age, try to think of the experience it represents! It’s much more positive to say I have 69 years of experience than saying I am 69 years old. Being grateful that I wake up each morning is a gift which I appreciate.
Fortunately, learning how to be more grateful is one of the easiest skills to learn if you’re willing to practice. Science has proven that even these two simple exercises will make a difference in your life. It’s worth a try.
- Find a little notebook which you entitle “Gratitude Journal”. Every night before going to bed enter from 3-5 things that you were grateful for during the day. You need to do this for about 6 to 8 weeks.By focusing on the positive, you will feel the difference. It will help shift you into a healthier, happier mindset.
- Think of someone in your life who has had a positive impact on you. Identify some of the qualities that this person has and focus on how grateful this made you. This person’s kindness and help contributed to a positive feeling in you which affects the way your brain fires new neurons and develops neural pathways. If you try to emulate some of those character traits, your sense of gratitude can expand equally.
Gratitude has everything to do with your outlook on life. How well do you observe and appreciate those small, positive details of your life?