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November 24, 2021

Giving Thanks is Good for You! The Power of Gratitude and Positive Aging

Two elderly women drinking coffee during conversation at home
Giving Thanks

With the Thanksgiving holiday upon us this week, gratitude is on all of our minds. Now is the time of year when we tend to pause, reflect on our blessings, and give thanks for all we have. But did you know that there are many benefits to expressing gratitude not just during Thanksgiving, but all year long? It’s true!

According to gratitude researcher Dr. Robert Emmons, cultivating an attitude of gratitude can lead to a host of positive effects on our physical health, psychological well-being, and relationships with others. In studies of people from ages eight to 80, those who consistently practiced gratitude reported a number of benefits, including:

  • Stronger immunity
  • Fewer bothersome aches and pains
  • Lower blood pressure
  • More motivation to exercise
  • Longer and more refreshing sleep
  • Higher levels of joy, optimism, and happiness
  • Less stress and greater resilience
  • Feeling more outgoing and less lonely or isolated

Best of all, the benefits of practicing gratitude can become even more powerful with age. As we get older and gain more life experience, our brains tend to become less active in responding to negative information and more reactive to positive information. “Training” our brains to find reasons to be grateful is a skill we can use to support better health and well-being throughout our lives!

So, how can you get into the habit of practicing gratitude to encourage positive aging? We have a few tips to help.

3 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude Every Day

There are many ways to express gratitude, both verbally and non-verbally. We can share what we’re thankful for with others, or keep it to ourselves. The idea is to take the time to appreciate and focus on all that we have instead of what we lack. These gratitude exercises might not feel natural at first, but they will get easier with time and practice. Try one or two and see what works for you!

Start a gratitude journal

In many of his experiments, Dr. Robert Emmons asked participants keep a daily gratitude journal to develop grateful thinking. In fact, it’s one of the first things he recommends people do to get into the habit of eliminating ungrateful thoughts and focusing on their blessings. If the idea of writing in a journal seems intimidating, don’t worry. It can be as simple as listing a few things you’re thankful for each week, whether it’s a memory from the past, something you’re currently experiencing, or a hope or dream you’re looking forward to in the future. At the end of the week, take some time to reflect on your list. You could even share the highlights with your family or friends to keep the cycle of positivity in motion!

Write thank-you notes

A heartfelt letter of appreciation can go a long way in brightening a person’s day. Can you think of someone who has gone above and beyond to help you or someone who could use some words of encouragement? Send them a thank-you note or letter! Writing by hand will give you time to reflect on your gratitude, and there’s something about “snail mail” that will make your gesture that much more meaningful. Every now and then, you could even write a thank-you letter to yourself in your gratitude journal.

Volunteer

Another way to develop a deeper appreciation for what you have is to give back whenever possible. The holiday season provides a perfect opportunity to get into the spirit of giving and volunteer your time and talents to a good cause! There are countless ways to give back this time of year, from gathering donations for a food bank to knitting hats and scarves to supporting a local non-profit organization financially. You’ll feel great knowing that you’re using your blessings to help others in need.

Gratitude is Meant to Be Shared

As you can see, having a mindset of gratitude is powerful, and it’s even better when we can share those benefits with others. Remember, we can learn a lot about the wisdom of gratitude from our elders. This Thanksgiving, take a moment to let senior loved ones know how thankful you are to have them in your life. They’re sure to appreciate your thoughtfulness and kind words! 

Giving Thanks at Bethany Village

Happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Bethany Village! No matter the season, we love taking the opportunity to show appreciation to our incredible staff and residents. We’re also grateful for the opportunity to care for you or your loved one. To request more information and schedule a tour of our senior living community, please contact us today.