Attitude of Gratitude

By Allison Gould, LCSW-R  |  12/20/2017

In my therapy practice, I often encourage patients to keep a gratitude journal, writing down three things they feel grateful for every day. Time and again, my patients have responded so positively to this exercise that I decided to take a closer look into why gratitude helps.

What I discovered is that the research on gratitude's impact on our wellbeing is exploding. Study after study is showing that gratitude can help to improve many areas of our health, from the physical to the emotional.

For some people, identifying things to be grateful for comes easy. But for others – whether due to character, circumstance or mindset – tapping into gratitude is a little more difficult. The good news is the brain can be trained to recognize what we have to be grateful for. In fact, the more practice you give yourself in feeling grateful, the more you adapt to this mindset. Here are four exercises that can help:

Exercise 1: Write down three things you are grateful for each day. It may be as big as your health or home, or as small as the delicious cup of coffee you are drinking. Write it down. Soon the gratitude will flow.

Exercise 2: Tap into gratitude through places. Think about a place in your life that makes you happy or that you are grateful for. Is it spending time in nature, a museum, restaurant or a friend's couch?

 Exercise 3: Write a letter of thanks to someone who had a great impact on you. Instead of simply saying thank you, try to be specific about what you are grateful for. For example, "I am so grateful for the way you were always there to listen when I wanted to talk. You have made a world of difference in my life."

Exercise 4: Choose a day and make note of the many ways people express affection and love. You could write down each kind word, gentle pat, smile, protective gesture, helping hand, shared laugh, etc. 

The more we start to pay attention, the more we begin to recognize that good things are happening all around us.

Allison Gould is a licensed clinical social worker at the Center for Healthy Aging on the campus of Northern Dutchess Hospital. She offers one-on-one counseling and group therapy for people 65 and older. For more visit www.healthquest.org/CHA (TTY: 800-421-1220).