Scientific research proves time and time again that incorporating the practice of thankfulness and gratitude into one’s life benefits not only mental health but physical as well. These aspects become particularly important to nurture amid final exams and the holiday season.
UMD students and faculty shared some of the various ways in which one can practice gratitude. One method involves taking trivial moments into account.
“I practice gratitude daily by being friendly and expressing thanks for everything, even small things, with everyone I interact with,” said junior computer science major Aiden Bell.
Noting and appreciating small, positive events is a formative practice in enhancing one’s perception of their own life.
A report from UCLA Health cited a correlation between expressing higher levels of gratitude and experiencing lower levels of depression. The practice also reduces anxiety and promotes physical benefits like supporting heart health, relieving stress and improving sleep.
“Behavior changes biology,” said a report from the Mayo Clinic. It also read that as individuals practice positive gestures, the hormone oxytocin is released, which aids in human connections. Because of this, gratitude should be practiced daily.
Another beneficial way people can express gratitude is by opening up to those they’re close with and sharing the ways they contribute to valuable friendships and experiences.
If friends and family are made aware of the ways they have helped people and made an impact on their lives, they will likely not only be inclined to continue being there for those they care about but also pass the gratitude forward, according to Forbes.
Communicating gratitude is a healthy practice, and it is also important in broader communities and environments like schools and workplaces.
“It's easy to take people's work for granted in the midst of a busy--or even stressful--day,” said UMD English professor Shannon Zellars-Strohl. “But an intentional display of gratitude can make someone feel seen and appreciated, giving them an emotional boost.”
Professor Zellars-Strohl said she makes a point of recognizing small achievements in others, like thanking a family member for unloading the dishwasher, commending a coworker on their help with a project, or informing a store clerk that their efforts are not going unnoticed.
The practice of gratitude can also be enhanced with one key step: tracking it. Ways to keep track of reasons to be grateful include writing them down in a notebook or journal, taking pictures of things and places that inspire happiness, or documenting them with technology.
Junior public relations major Jessica Kalmowitz said, “I use this app called ‘I am’ that sends me daily affirmations to remind myself of good things in my life.”
The app sends daily notifications to one’s device containing positive affirmations, which are motivational messages that promote self-care.
Examples of messages shared by the app are “I am loved” and “I am confident in my ability to change my life.” This serves as a great platform for promoting self-gratitude, which is equally as important as expressing thankfulness toward others.
Taking steps to express gratitude should not be a Thanksgiving-exclusive custom. It is important that people grow positive tendencies like appreciating the little things, showing thankfulness in broader settings and tracking self-help methods throughout the year in order to foster a routine of practicing gratitude. These practices are essential for an extra boost of joy to get through the day.