Did you know that having a negative attitude is bad for you? Having a gratitude kind of attitude not only makes you a happier person, but also a healthier one! Yep, as it turns out, clinical studies actually show this to be true! And, when I say happier and healthier, I don’t just mean the “feel good, having a great day” kind of happier and healthier – but actually, physically, being healthier! According to HealthLeader, showing appreciation results in positive emotions that alter the heart rate variability, which was shown to reduce the risk of coronary artery disease and relieve hypertension. How cool is that?!!
Let’s face it, when things feel like they are going great in life, we tend to FEEL great, don’t we? Well, now science has actually linked happiness to our health, which I think it pretty dang cool! So, who wouldn’t want to feel better, and be happier – can I see a show of hands? Anyone? Buelller? Anyone?
Knowing that having a gratitude attitude can literally change our lives (happier = healthier), here are six ways that you can start to implement the gratitude attitude. Make these permanent staples in your daily routines, and you’ll start to see some positive habits form!
- Keep a gratitude journal: This is where you capture things you are thankful for on a weekly basis, and reflect on it often. It serves two purposes, really – it reminds us of how lucky we are, and ensures we live more purposefully in the “now”, opening s us up to actually seeing more and more positives in what might otherwise be a seemingly negative situation or circumstance.
- Implement the “Even if” approach: While there were many days I found myself stuck in traffic during my already-long commute to and from the office, I learned (with patience and time) to stop allowing my traffic frustrations to get to me, and instead, enjoy the moment as much as I could. Sure, I needed to get my kids from the sitter on time, and needed to cook dinner and feed the family before (insert each child’s activity here) practice, but it was all out of my control. So instead, I learned to say “Even if I’m 5 minutes late, nobody is going to die as a result of this, so it’s okay”; “Even if we have veggies and dip for dinner, it is still healthy, quick, and I can always feed the kids more when they get home from their practice”; “Even if we are 10 minutes late to practice, it’s better than not going to practice at all, and it isn’t a big deal”. You get the picture. This approach has helped me alleviate some of the stress and turn negative feelings into more calming, positive ones. Give it a try!
- Take a “Happy Snap” from the past: Bring back a moment in your life that made you happy, and picture it in your mind. For me, I decided to put a picture of my kids in my car, so that when I was stuck at a stop light or at a stand -still in traffic, I could look at them and it would always bring a smile to my face. Always. You could use a great photo from vacation, or anything else that symbolized something happy in your life – a great time, event, thing from the past.
- Make a “feel-good” book: This may take a little time, initially, but it will be so well worth it after you get hours and hours of awesome use from it! Some people already have these, and don’t realize it! Do you scrapbook? My sister, who is an avid and amazing scrap booker, made me one of the best presents I have ever received in my life – ever. She made a scrapbook for me that was of my oldest child’s first year of life. It even included sonogram pictures! It isn’t a large book, it’s a smaller one, with 24 pages of pictures (counting both sides) of one of my greatest joys in life. I look at this book, instantly smile, and am grateful for my amazing child, and thoughtful sister who put the whole thing together for me! And, that’s only ONE of my kids! You can make a book like this of things in YOUR life that make YOU happy! Do you have a dog, a cat, a favorite bike, a best friend, your piano, or maybe a golf club that reminds you of your hole-in-one? Anything that makes you smile, thankful, and leaves you feeling GOOD. Put pictures in that book, make it as small or large as you want, and review it often! Make more than one and you can rotate them! They don’t have to be fancy, and you could simply grab a printer, your iPhone and some glue sticks if that’s what works for you. It doesn’t matter how fancy it is, the trick is to just DO IT.
- Start each day with an open mind: Open your mind to the littlest things, like maybe seeing a beautiful butterfly, or curious squirrel, while at the stop light on your way to work. Open your mind to simply NOTICE what’s going on around you. The other day, while rushing to pick up a few staple items from the local grocer, I was taken aback by this cute elderly couple who, after purchasing their few grocery items, grabbed hands and the gentleman gave his wife a small little kiss on the cheek, before they proceeded out the store with their goods. Most people were so busy on their smart phones they didn’t even notice such a beautiful moment. If you aren’t careful and openly watching for them, you could be missing moments of beauty happening all around you – what a shame that would be!
- Grow a garden: Bear with me on this one, especially as the colder months draw near. If you have ever grown an edible plant, there is nothing quite like the excitement of getting that first vegetable (or fruit) and eating it. If you don’t have space for a garden, just grow a single plant, even if it’s in a pot. No patio, balcony or deck with direct sunlight? That’s ok – grab a container and some lettuce or spinach seeds and grow those – they require very little sunlight and taste amazing freshly picked! More importantly, they force you to have patience and slowly grow gratitude for the fruits of your labor. Once you eat the freshly picked item, whatever it is, you will find your gratitude in nature’s beauty and bounty! The trick is to grow something you enjoy eating, though! And really, considering the alternative, having garden-fresh food is amazing, just be sure to buy a healthy seedling (nothing genetically-modified)
These six steps, when put together and practiced over time, will make a complete difference in your level of happiness, and quite possibly your level of health! It is said that new habits take around 21 days before they stick. My challenge to you is to try this for one month, and tweak it to best fit your needs, but stick to it and document how you feel before, during, and after doing these 6 things! I’d love to hear how you did, or what you might do differently? Capture your comments and let me know, below!