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Q: People who are grateful seem to appreciate life and be much happier, regardless of their external circumstances. This time of year, and after what we've all endured during the COVID-19 pandemic, practicing gratitude seems especially important and especially difficult. What's your advice on how to practice gratitude?
A: It is absolutely true that counting your blessings each day has been shown to significantly increase your happiness and even your physical health. In addition to helping you get more sleep, practicing gratitude can boost your immunity, build relationships and connectedness, and positively improve your mental health.
"Even though simply thinking of what makes you grateful in life sounds easy enough, you should actually treat it like a muscle you're building or a new habit you're forming," says Lisa Hardesty, Ph.D., a Mayo Clinic Health System psychologist. "Your goal should be to move your mind to thinking about gratitude occasionally to making it second nature in your life. Eventually, your threshold will lower so that you feel grateful for the little things in life, and your perspective will be one of openness to the good things as well as bolstering you for when the challenges do arise. Eventually, you may even be able to cultivate gratitude for the challenges in life, as that is when we grow the most."
To get started this holiday season, ask yourself these questions to set your focus and mindset:
Then incorporate daily practices to ensure you mindfully incorporate gratitude into your daily life, such as:
Mayo Clinic Health System consists of clinics, hospitals and other facilities that serve the health care needs of people in Iowa, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The community-based providers, paired with the resources and expertise of Mayo Clinic, enable patients in the region to receive highest-quality physical and virtual health care close to home.