Did you know the practice of gratitude can help you feel better? It's science. Studies over and over
confirm grateful people have increased well-being, better health, increased optimism, and a more positive outlook on life. Further adding to the good news, neuroscientists believe "older people may have a sunnier outlook because the limbic system, particularly the amygdala, an area of the brain involved in emotional attention and memory, becomes less active in response to negative information." That means as we age, there's a trend toward greater emotional happiness. What a nice thing to look forward to in life!
Even with this naturally occurring trend, it's possible to train our brain to become more grateful and boost our feelings of joy when we need it most. For example, when we go through a period of transition or if we're handling a situation that's outside of our control, we may be able to experience it with a little more grace and ease when we're in a state of gratitude. It does take some practice, which is why we've outlined five activities you can try right now.
How to Practice Gratitude1. Journaling:
Spend a few minutes thinking about the people, events, and experiences that have a positive impact on your life, and capture those thoughts in a journal. We've included a free printable below to help get you started!
It can also be therapeutic to write gratitude letters to the people most special to you. You don't have to mail the letters if you'd rather keep them private. The simple act of writing down these positive feelings can benefit you greatly. 2. Positive Reminiscing:
Reminiscing is an important part of aging. It doesn't have to be just about the glory days, either. Remembering various life stories and sharing them with family members or swapping them with a dear friend is a wonderful way to remind yourself of the experiences you've accumulated, the interesting people you've met, and the wisdom you've come to know firsthand.
As another tip, looking at old photos and videos can help restore precious memories with color and clarity. Take a moment to pull out the albums or rewind those VHS tapes and reminisce with a grateful heart. 3. Mindful Walking:
The next time you walk over to the dining room or step outside to enjoy some fresh air, take a slower pace than usual. Look around and notice any new or beautiful things you see.
If you're outside, pay attention to the wispy clouds, the cool breeze, the seasonal decorations, or the smiles you pass. As you walk through your home, notice your photos, your favorite chair, and the bird sitting outside the window. Make an effort to feel grateful for it all – the simple pleasures in life. 4. Watching Inspiring Shows:
The things we feed our mind can be just as important to our health as what we feed our bellies. Instead of watching terrible news all day, make an effort to switch to something inspiring. Positive stories help remind us of the good there is in the world and leave us feeling hopeful. 5. Focusing on Others:
The act of giving is a powerful and immediate way to spark joy and gratitude in your life. The residents at RLC experience this in many ways. From collecting canned goods and knitting sleeping mats for the homeless to rocking in chairs to raise money for Alzheimer's, many of our communities have come together to serve and love on others. You can read about them in this recent article
. These activities promote social connection and give everyone a chance to feel good!
The Effects of Gratitude
Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and widely regarded as the world's leading scientific expert on the study of gratitude, has seen significant results
from gratitude journaling alone – and within just a few weeks. Along with the psychological benefits of feeling more joy, increased vitality, and a greater desire to be more outgoing, he has documented physical advantages, such as stronger immune systems, fewer noticeable aches and pains, increased energy and desire to exercise, and more refreshing sleep. Who wouldn't want all of that?
As we now know, maintaining a foundation of gratitude can be a key ingredient to a more fulfilled life. So, to help jumpstart your practice, we've designed a free weekly gratitude journal for you to download, print, and start enjoying right away. Just click on the link below.
Want to join us in an act of giving?
Come tour a community
and find out about our ongoing programs and events. There's always something joyful happening at RLC, and we'd love to have your company!