MENTAL HEALTH

How to practice gratitude, according to experts

Aug 22, 2023, 10:30 AM | Updated: 10:43 am

Keeping a journal is one of many ways to practice gratitude. (Lisa Marie Miller/Deseret Morning New...

Keeping a journal is one of many ways to practice gratitude. (Lisa Marie Miller/Deseret Morning News)

(Lisa Marie Miller/Deseret Morning News)

SALT LAKE CITY — Practicing gratitude can have positive impacts on an individual’s quality of life. Kim Cameron, the William Russell Kelly Professor of Management and Organizations at the University of Michigan, said that from a scientific point of view, gratitude can improve the quality of physical and mental health. 

Gratitude is best practiced repeatedly and often. “It changes heart rhythms … brain waves … performance, it changes all kinds of things,” said Cameron. 

Keeping a gratitude journal is one of the ways to incorporate more gratitude into your day. Recalling the small moments of gratitude and the people associated with them throughout the day can help implement habits, according to mindful.org.

Being intentional about practicing gratitude and reminding yourself with visual cues are other ways to make sure you build the habit. 

Finding reasons to practice gratitude toward negative experiences can also be a way to build gratitude into your life. According to mindful.org, finding gratitude in the negative can help you move past it or remember how far you’ve come.

Meditate on who or what makes you grateful. Asking yourself what you’ve given, received, or learned can help you find gratitude. After your meditation, you could even write a letter to someone, demonstrating that gratitude. 

“This is not rocket science … it’s a very small, easily implemented practice,” said Cameron. 

Why practice gratitude?

Those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative. When given a creative task, “those keeping a gratitude journal have a broader variety of ideas and simply more numerous ideas. That is mental flexibility,” said Cameron. 

Practicing gratitude can also increase memory and decision-making functions. Cameron said, “[people who keep] a gratitude journal [have] a higher level of performance mentally [and] cognitively.” 

One study was performed on heart disease patients. One group of patience was asked to keep a gratitude journal, while the other was not. After eight weeks, patients who kept a gratitude journal showed significantly more healing. The group that did not, experienced deterioration in heart health, according to Cameron. 

“Human beings, as it turns out, are inherently inclined toward being positive, being virtuous, being grateful, being compassionate, and so on,” Cameron said. 

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