It’s the season for giving thanks, not only to others but also to ourselves. This is a special time to focus on being thankful for our health, family and friends, and new experiences throughout the year. However, as we age it can be more difficult to feel that gratitude, especially with unexpected losses and health issues. These problems can make it hard to move forward mentally and can prevent us from staying active and mobile.
Despite these challenges, it’s important to find positive things to feel thankful for this season and throughout the year. Studies consistently show us that the simple act of gratitude – of feeling deeply grateful for something – has a real effect on our physiology. According to an article published by Forbes, “A growing body of research finds that gratitude can have a lasting impact on health. It can boost the immune system, improve sleep and combat the negative effects of stress. When we think about what we appreciate, our body responds by increasing oxytocin, the feel-good hormone.”
The article also mentions that experiencing gratitude and maintaining connections to others is critical to developing a positive sense of well-being as we age. The holidays are a perfect time to enhance this feeling and be thankful. Here’s how:
How to Feel More Grateful as We Age
Here are some important ways to practice feeling grateful, not just around Thanksgiving but throughout the year as we get older:
- Identify at least one or two positive things that happen to you each day. If you feel inclined, you can even write them on a Sticky Note with the date. When you start to experience a negative train of thought, pull out a few of the notes to reread and remind yourself of times you’ve felt grateful. This subconscious training can help refocus your mind on positive things.
- Engage in small acts of kindness. Inspiring feel-good vibes doesn’t have to cost money or require a big gesture. Simply doing something small for someone else (like helping a neighbor or a stranger with a task or sharing a cup of coffee) can brighten someone’s day and help you socialize and stay connected.
- Spend time in nature. Although the chilly weather is upon us, if the weather conditions permit, set aside some time each day to go for a short walk or even visit a park or nearby botanical garden. Recognizing the small details of beauty all around us every day is a great opportunity to experience the world in a way that many of us take for granted or don’t get the chance to experience at all. Plus, there’s overwhelming proof of the many benefits of spending time in nature, including boosting your health and well-being.
- Practice forgiveness. One of the biggest regrets many people have near the end of their lives is not having the opportunity to reconcile with others. As we age, it’s more beneficial than ever to foster strong connections with each other and that includes learning to forgive even when it can be difficult to do so. Focusing on being grateful for the friendship or relationship overall and forgiving the smaller indiscretions can go a long way to improving your feelings of gratitude.
What other ways do you practice feeling grateful? We’d love to hear from you!