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Gratitude: What is it and why is it important?

Practicing Gratitude

Thanksgiving is, for many people, a time to give thanks and appreciate our families and all we have.

Although many of us have already heard about the benefits of practicing gratitude I figured after the year we’ve had, it bears repeating. I was surprised to find that after two years of writing this blog, I haven’t written about gratitude yet. It is such an important practice for all of us to follow.

So what exactly is gratitude?

Gratitude is a deep appreciation for something or someone in our lives. It can be as small as appreciating the warm sun on your face or as important as gratitude for health and family. It doesn’t matter what it is as long as you connect with the positive emotion of feeling grateful. When you practice gratitude, try to really feel it in your body and allow the feeling to wash over you. The deeper you connect with it, the more benefit it will have.

So why is gratitude so important?

First, from a mindset perspective, what we focus on most often determines our emotional state. So if you focus more on what you are grateful for, versus what you feel you are lacking or is going wrong, you are more likely to feel better.

Also, gratitude improves feelings of hope and optimism, which allows you to more easily seek out positive solutions. When we focus on the negative, we see more negativity around us.

Probably most significantly, research has shown that a regular gratitude practice can have physical benefits such as improved mood, better sleep and even reduce inflammation, to name a few.

While the holidays will be different for many of us this year, those who have lost loved ones, the holidays may be especially difficult. When we are going through loss and/or difficult times, gratitude can be especially hard to grasp.

Feeling grateful does not negate or minimize the difficulties you may be enduring, but it does help to maintain perspective and not lose hope for a better tomorrow. Even in our darkest times, there is always some small thing to be grateful for and that tiny ray of hope can help to get you through.

Remember you’ve survived the worst days of your life so far and you will continue to do so.

If you’d like to read more about a woman’s personal account of practicing gratitude for a year and how it changed her, I recommend a good book called “The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life” by Janice Kaplan.

Practicing gratitude only take a few minutes each day.

You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you or have a gratitude journal you write in each night before bed. Create a routine that works for you and find three things each day you are grateful for. If you could use extra support with this practice, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. I wish you all a peaceful and healthy holiday season. I am especially grateful for each of you.

“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
-Anthony Robbins

Be well.

Kathy Most
Therapist in Westfield, NJ
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