It can be very challenging to have an attitude of gratitude when one is in the midst of senior-related challenges such as chronic health conditions, ageing, cognitive concerns, mobility issues and more, but there are so many senior health benefits associated with thankfulness.
Experts say that the simple act of practising gratitude is a great antidote to stress and improving your overall mental health, but the key is to make it an action, not just a feeling. So how do you do that?
Before you dismiss gratitude as the domain of #grateful #blessed social media influencers, give it another chance. Making gratitude a regular practice has many positive outcomes in the stress-busting department, say experts – and we could all use a bit of that right now!
Daily mental health boost
The last two years have been rough for all of us. Some experts are even predicting that a mental health crisis will be the next pandemic. So any tool that can help fortify mental health is going to come in very handy.
“Gratitude is an elixir for mental health,” says life coach Thembi Hama. “It makes us see how it is all not that bad – that even though we may not always get what we want, there is still some good that exists in the world. It turns our eyes and minds towards the light and love of the world, instantly making us feel better in times of darkness and despair.”
Grounded in the moment
Mindfulness has long been supported as a tool for improving mental health, with benefits ranging from reduced stress and better focus to improving relationships. Practising gratitude can help tap into these benefits.
“The key to why we practise mindfulness is to increase our ability to ‘be in the moment’,” says life coach Trudy Blake, founder of Trucollab. “By practising gratitude you are truly in the moment – feeling, thinking and acting on something that you are appreciative of and grateful for. In order to notice and see moments of gratitude, one has to be fully present, using all five senses. You cannot hear, see, taste, touch or smell the past or the future – only the present moment.”
Gratitude is a doing word
We’ve all felt gratitude for something at some point in our lives but adopting a gratitude practice is not just a feeling – it’s a conscious action.
“Feeling gratitude is when you feel thankful for that moment – perhaps when something good happens to you or around you and you express your gratitude. Consciously practising gratitude is actively looking for things to be grateful for even in the middle of a life storm,” explains Hama. “It is also finding ways to express gratitude – for example reading out your gratitude lists every morning or evening or creating gratitude jars and storing all the beautiful moments, past and present, as reminders for the future.”
Start your practice today
“Consciously practising gratitude involves affirming the good things that you have received and acknowledging the role other people play in providing goodness in our lives,” says Blake. “Start by observing and then actually acknowledge by expressing how you feel in words or actions.”
Here are three more tools she recommends:
Gratitude journal: Don’t overlook the small things and include people, places, personal and practical aspects that you can be grateful for.
Quotes on the fridge: Use these as a reminder to share joy, thank yous and hugs.
Gratitude buddy: It can be your partner, child or a friend. Set aside time each day to discuss things you are grateful for.
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