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It’s the new year, and many of us are wondering what we can do differently to achieve best self. We may assess our finances, relationships and/or romance, fun and recreation, our health and well-being, friends and family, personal and/professional growth, etc.
For some of us, all of these areas are a “smooth” ride, but for many of us, there may be a few “bumps” and areas that need attention. What about you? Are there areas you want to address now, soon or later?
For many of us, health and well-being goals are set at the beginning of each year. We consider eating healthier, exercising more, making plans to practice stress management, quit smoking, etc. What does it take to get started? How can we renew energy and enthusiasm to tackle change and challenges?
One way to begin seeing things in a new way and add positive emotions to your routine and life includes practicing gratitude. Many of us practice gratitude during certain times of the year, such as Thanksgiving or Christmas — we count our blessings and express thankfulness, especially to family and friends during these annual special times. How many of us purposely do it every day, perhaps numerous times during the day?
The act of recognizing and expressing gratitude has been linked to improved physical, psychological and social health benefits. Particularly in the past few years, gratitude research has gotten a lot of attention. The benefits include many of the changes we all strive to achieve — decreased stress levels, lowered blood pressures, enhanced sleep quality, stronger immune systems, efforts to exercise more and greater feelings of joy, happiness, forgiveness and compassion.
Here are some tips for practicing and discovering gratitude — an inner sense or attitude of appreciation for some benefit received or act of kindness.
Using a journal, spend time writing about the things for which you are grateful; strive for 10 to 15 minutes of writing each day. Start with a couple of days a week and expand your gratitude writing to most days of the week. Perhaps begin expressing gratitude for basic things you are grateful for such as a home, a warm bed, food or anything that is an everyday material thing you value. As you expand your writing, begin including experiences, people, places and situations that enhance your feelings of joy and happiness. Challenge yourself to find something you appreciate in people or things you don’t like or care for as well. Self-affirmation is important — be grateful for your own abilities and efforts to do be kind to others. Begin to see the world through a different lens – one that searches and sees the good versus the bad.
Take notice of how your world and life begin to change as a result of efforts to discover, practice and express gratitude. And guess what? Being grateful is available to everyone!
Paula Furiness is the wellness coordinator at Wilson Medical Center. She is an American College of Sports Medicine certified clinical exercise physiologist. Furiness has worked in the health and wellness field for more than 30 years. Have questions? Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.