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Making gratitude your superpower

It may seem a bit counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to get through tough times is to spend time thinking about what you’re grateful for.

Let’s face it Aotearoa – it’s been a pretty tough year, and it can feel a bit like we’re crawling towards the 2021 finish line.

Taking time to notice and be grateful for the good stuff every day increases your chances of getting through hard times, and can make you happier in the good times.

Gratitude magnifies positive feelings and experiences and prevents us from taking things for granted. Not only does practising gratitude improve our mental health, but it can improve the quality of our relationships as well as our physical health.

Whether it’s friendships, weekends, pets, crunchy peanut butter or a flushing toilet, there are lots of small (and not so small) things we can all be grateful for.

We love these tips from book, The gratitude project - How the science of thankfulness can rewire our brains for resilience, optimism, and the greater good, edited by Jeremy Adam Smith, Kira Newman, Jason Marsh, Dacher Keltner, PhD:

Health benefits of gratitude
Across two decades of research, gratitude in its various forms seems to have wide-ranging benefits for our mental health, our relationships, our physical health, and our self-improvement.

In one study, more grateful participants reported fewer health problems (such as headaches, gastrointestinal problems, respiratory infections, and sleep disturbances); in another, more grateful participants reported fewer physical symptoms (including headaches, dizziness, stomachaches, and runny noses). People of all ages and various nationalities who have more grateful dispositions have fewer health complaints than their less grateful counterparts.

Taking time to smell the roses
Grateful people also notice the fragrance of the coffee, the bread baking in the oven, the aroma of a new car—whatever gives them pleasure. Loyola University psychologist Fred Bryant finds that savouring positive experiences makes them stickier in your brain and increases their benefits to your psyche—and the key, he argues, is expressing gratitude for the experience

Gratitude journals
It’s so easy to get used to the good things in our lives that we really need to put effort into appreciating them, even when they’re little things. Gratitude helps us savour our positive experiences and prevents us from taking things for granted. And tasks like the gratitude journal are an easy way to encourage the regular practice of gratitude.

Perhaps this suggests that writing gratitude letters produces better mental health by shifting our attention away from toxic emotions, such as resentment and envy.

Be grateful for people and experiences, not just things
If you want to cultivate a more grateful disposition, buy more in the way of experiences and purchase fewer possessions. This does not mean that you need to swear off all material goods and live the life of an ascetic. By all means, continue to enjoy your material possessions. Just shift your expenditures a bit more in the experiential direction and a bit less in the material direction, and you’re likely to find yourself enjoying the many psychological benefits that come with being more grateful.

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