The focus for the past year has been on building our immunity. We already know the importance of eating well, prioritizing vitamins D and C, getting enough exercise, and sleeping well, which all go a long way toward supporting our immunity and maintaining good health. However, one essential vitamin has been omitted from the conversation, one that you can't purchase in a bottle. We’re talking about vitamin G, where the G stands for gratitude.
Webster’s defines gratitude as a feeling of appreciation or thanks, and psychologists say that gratitude is a positive emotional response we perceive upon giving or receiving a benefit from someone. According to Glenn Fox, PhD, an expert in the science of gratitude at the USC Marshall School of Business, “the benefits associated with gratitude include more exercise, reduced symptoms of physical pain, lower levels of inflammation, lower blood pressure, and a host of other things we associate with better health.” Gratitude rewires the pathways in our brain, which boosts our levels of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin ‒ the happy hormones.
Parts of the neural networks in our brain light up when we socialize and experience pleasure, which is associated with social bonding and stress relief. Gratitude helps us with anxiety by interrupting the cycle of constantly scanning for dangers. Thinking happy thoughts helps to turn off our “fight, fight, or freeze” reaction and helps balance our nervous system. It also reduces the stress hormone cortisol and can help you sleep better by activating the hypothalamus, which regulates slumber.
The shifts listed below are small yet mighty ways to improve your well-being, especially during challenging times.
Ways to Practice Gratitude for More Vitamin G
1. Say, “Thank you.”
As soon as you wake up in the morning, practice gratitude. Thank your body for working to keep you alive during the night and for waking you in the morning. Since the body is like a tape recorder eavesdropping on every thought and emotion, this positive feedback perks you up and encourages your body to align with those positive thoughts and feelings.
2. Keep a gratitude journal.
Purchase a book that fits your personality (mine has gold butterflies on the cover). As soon as you feel inspired, regardless of the time of day, jot down the things that make you feel grateful. These could include your delicious breakfast, your restful sleep, the roof over your head, or the thoughtful text your partner just sent you.
3. Create a gratitude jar.
With the New Year coming up, this is a fun practice where you can get the whole household involved. Starting on January 1, on a small slip of paper at the end of every night, write the date and three things you are most grateful for. Fold it up and toss it in the jar. Then, on December 31, dump out the jar and host a party with friends and family to share all the gratitude you experienced that year.
You’ll get another boost of gratitude just remembering all the awesome things that have happened to you. Think of it as a way to intentionally count your blessings.
4. Share the love.
Call, email, or text someone and express how grateful you are for them. Recount a story, kind gesture, or fun experience the two of you shared. I bet this will infuse a little vitamin G into their day, and they may even pass it on. (That’s the ripple effect of health and happiness in action!) Don't forget to share a dose of love with yourself, too.
Positivity Attracts Positivity
Even in the most challenging times, there’s always a reason to be grateful. The happier the thoughts you think, the happier the moments you’ll attract. However, like a muscle needs exercise, this should be considered a practice you must engage in consistently in order to reap and enjoy the long-term benefits.