Wellness Tip: Exercising Gratitude

November 2018

Gratitude is good for you. Research shows a direct link between gratitude and happiness, good health and even financial stability. Specific to cancer survivors, two recent studies have shown positive effects from exercises in focusing on gratitude. In fact, in a 2016 study of breast cancer Survivors, a cultivated practice of "gratitude intervention" reduced fear of recurrence and, beyond that, increased the overall wellbeing of the study participants.

What's nice about this news is that gratitude is something you can actively develop. Using a gratitude jar is one simple way to do that. Here's how it works.

At the beginning or end of each day, write down one thing for which you're grateful--no matter how large or small--reflect on it a moment and put it in a jar. This may be easier to do on some days than others, but even on the challenging days, try to find even a small or basic thing to note or something that could have been worse but wasn't (e.g. "The clouds were pretty today" or "I hurt, but not as much as last month"). Don't be afraid to repeat items, but exercise your thinking to look for new things to appreciate. Soon your jar will fill with evidence of the plus side of your life. The real benefit, though, comes from developing a mindset of positive perception.

What if you're having a bleak time, and you're really not able to come up with something to add to the jar? Instead, take out a slip or two to remind you of the things you appreciate. Even if they don't seem to apply to that day, try to reflect on the memory and the moment that caused you to write the slip originally.

Over time, practicing gratitude can influence the way you interact with the world, and this, in turn, can reduce the level of stress hormones circulating in your system, improve the quality of your sleep and boost your immune system. And that's something to appreciate.


Gratitude jars are also great for kids, so if you have a child or grand child, give it a try together (which can also help you get your own practice going). Begin by decorating a jar together as a fun craft activity. A mayo or peanut butter jar is just the right size and not breakable. With the jar ready to go, pick a regular time to write the gratitude slips--maybe at dinner or bedtime. If your young one has a bad day, have her or him read some slips and then help find something to add to the jar. Helping them can help your outlook too.

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