5 Ways to Practice Gratitude in Senior Living
Practicing gratitude is good for health – for centuries, the belief that we should practice gratitude on a regular basis has existed. With its roots in the Latin word “gratia,” which means grace or gratefulness, the practice of gratitude is about looking for, noticing, and appreciating good things.
The more we practice and truly savor those good things, the better we feel in the moment. And each of those moments build on one another to shift our outlook on life in general. Practicing gratitude can have a strong positive impact for seniors or anyone experiencing changes in health or other transitions. Expressing gratitude has been shown to reduce stress, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, overall mood, and immune system function. Whether it’s gratitude for the big things or small delights, the effect is the same.
And better yet, the more you practice gratitude, the easier it gets! Like any exercise, exercising your “gratitude muscles” makes them stronger and better. Find just one small thing to be grateful for and let the good feelings spread. As we age, and as we help others navigate the aging process, we can all fall prey to the belief, “Getting old is hard.” With a gratitude practice, we can start to shift that mindset. If you or a loved one is having trouble finding and practicing gratitude, here are four different ways to incorporate gratitude into your life.
1. Gratitude Journal
One way many people begin practicing gratitude is with a journal. It’s a place (journal, notebook, or piece of paper, etc.) where you write down one (or more) thing you’re grateful for in the morning. You can finish your day in the same way, by writing down one thing you’re grateful for. The process of starting and ending your day with looking for things to be grateful for retrains your brain. Keep it simple, and take a moment to appreciate what it’s like to have that person, thing or quality, like: “I am grateful for coffee, my glasses, and my friend ___.” More tech-savvy folks may want to use an app, but the idea is the same: Get in the habit of capturing what you’re grateful for.
2. Gratitude jar (or box)
Keep a jar or box somewhere visible in your home. Every time you complete a task, write it down on a scrap of paper and put it in the jar. Then take out the items as you finish each day.
3. Shift your focus
It’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that you need to do everything perfectly to be happy. Instead of focusing on what you don’t have, focus on what you do have. Rather than worrying about what might happen tomorrow, what can you be thankful for right this moment?
4. Appreciate yourself
What do you appreciate about yourself? What character traits do you have that you appreciate? What can you appreciate about your body and all the things it does for you? Make sure to think about both the big and small things.
5. Working with Others
Building a habit of gratitude and including others is a great way to create accountability for yourself, improve your outlook, and stay connected to others. Plus, it helps them do the same. One way to do this is to identify a “gratitude buddy,” which can be someone you text or call daily about what you’re grateful for. As you practice, you might get ideas from the other person and/or find ways to challenge each other. For example, if you really want to challenge yourself, write down different things each day, not repeating anything from the days before. See how many days in a row you can do this.
Things to be Thankful for in Aging
Here are a few things at the top of the list:
- An opportunity to make new friends – our Generations communities are filled with social events and activities to facilitate connections.
- Family, friends, and support systems – at every Generations community, you’ll find a wide variety of activities and a full calendar of event that family and friends are invited to join.
- Ability to work on mental health and stay thankful – at every Generations community there are daily fitness classes, musical entertainment, meditation and mindfulness opportunities, religious services, and outdoor pursuits.
These are some small things that will help get started with gratitude practice. No matter age, be sure to take time to recognize all the things we have to be thankful for. Here at Generations, we are thankful for our amazing residents and staff members.
Contact us today for more information about Generations.