Gratitude is a wonderful thing and we’re just scratching the surface when it comes to discovering the various positive changes it has on our mental and physical health.
It can be tough to find a moment for ourselves in today’s hectic life, especially if you have little ones to look after, but gratitude journaling is well worth the effort and can be as short as 10 minutes of your time each day.
The 30 Day guided challenge will help you form positive habits by inspiring you every single day with positive journal prompts as you start your gratitude journey.
This post will explore the concept of gratitude in-depth, how to express it, how it can have a positive impact on your daily life, and how to keep going through the hard times.
I would encourage you to read it all before starting the challenge as it provides the foundations for you to build on.
Let’s get started on your gratitude journey
(If you just want to get started now enter your email below to receive your free printable gratitude journal prompts)
- The Mental And Physical Benefits of Gratitude
- It’s All About Choices
- What’s Holding You Back?
- Happiness Is A Conscious Focus
- Staying Positive When Life Falls Apart
- But What If You’re Stuck In Negativity?
- Sharing Gratitude With The World
- Living Abundantly By Showing And Sharing Gratitude
- The 30 Days Of Gratitude Challenge
1) The Mental And Physical Benefits of Gratitude
The Mental Benefits Of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude helps your overall mental health because when you have a habit of gratitude you instantly have a better outlook on life.
Don’t be surprised if you start putting down your own gratitude journal with a big smile on your face, if may even become your favorite part of your daily routine.
Of course, the benefits don’t stop at increased happiness. Feelings of gratitude have been linked to a better self-image and less anxiety.
This comes as no surprise to scientists who have recorded increased levels of dopamine and serotonin after intentional gratitude meditations.
The Physical Benefits Of Gratitude
This is where it gets interesting.
It’s one thing to feel better emotionally, but the release of these “feel-good” hormones affects your physical body as well.
Gratitude reduces stress and with it, you’re sleeping better, your blood pressure lowers, and you have more energy.
As a result, you move more, leading to even better overall physical health. Maybe your gratitude exercise motivates you to go out for a walk, getting more oxygen into your body, and loading up on Vitamin D.
Being able to sleep soundly reduces appetite and less stress helps you make smarter food choices. All these things work hand in hand to turn you into a healthier and stronger version of yourself.
Gratitude is particularly important for heart health. Between the lower blood pressure and reduced stress, you are putting less strain on your heart.
The added exercise and sleep strengthen your heart muscle and give this most important organ time to recover and heal overnight.
With heart disease one of the leading causes of death in modern society, there’s never been a better time to practice gratitude and let go of stress.
How can you tap into both the mental and physical benefits of gratitude? A great place to start is by creating a habit of thinking of at least one person or one thing you are deeply grateful for each morning as soon as you wake up. It sets the tone for the whole day and gets you off to a great start to reap these powerful benefits. Give it a try!
2) It’s All About Choices
How you feel – how happy you are, your stress levels, even how well you sleep – may seem like it’s out of your hand, but it is actually a choice you make.
You can choose to be grateful for what you have and happiness follows.
Or you can choose to focus on what you’re lacking, who has wronged you, and what’s not going your way. And guess what? You’ll feel miserable.
You may blame others, circumstances, or fate for your unhappiness. But at the end of the day, it’s all about you and the choices you make.
You choose happiness or misery.
How can you make sure you make the right choices throughout life? One of the simplest ways to ensure you live a happy and fulfilled life is to focus on gratitude.
Of course, that’s easier said than done, but let’s look at two ways to hand the same scenario
The Lunch Date
One of your best friends stands you up on your lunch date. You get upset, and that’s okay. You spent time and effort arranging precious childcare for this and it’s ok to be annoyed.
How you choose to move forward from here is what will make the difference.
You can choose to dwell on the slight you think your friend gave you.
The more you think about it, the angrier you get.
Instead of having lunch at the new restaurant, you were looking forward to trying, you get back into your car, drive home and let it ruin your day.
That’s a choice. Now let’s look at a different one.
Same scenario. Your friend stands you up. You’re disappointed and maybe even a little mad.
You take a deep breath, let those negative feelings go, and make a choice based on gratitude.
How can you use this situation in a positive way?
Maybe you’ve been wishing for some quiet alone time so you can hear yourself think.
Perhaps there’s a store you’ve wanted to check out or a movie you’ve wanted to see for a while and this is the time to do it.
Is there an old friend you’ve been meaning to visit?
Or maybe you’ll simply enjoy a good meal by yourself and grab some takeout for your spouse on the way out the door.
Instead of heading home angry, you’re going home grateful for these few special hours you carved out for yourself.
Maybe you talk to your friend later that evening and find out that she had a family emergency that caused her to miss your lunch date.
How guilty would you feel then about the anger you let yourself feel towards her? And how guilty would she feel for having ruined your day?
Instead, focusing on gratitude and making the best of the situation, you created a little bit of happiness for yourself. If you ask me, that’s some sort of superpower.
3) What’s Holding You Back?
The more you read and learn about the power of gratitude on both body and mind, the more amazed you will be about how much it can do for you.
Let’s take a look at how forgiveness can free us from the things that are holding us back.
More importantly, let’s dive a little deeper and into the mind body connection of practicing (or not practicing) forgiveness.
The Effects Of a Grudge
Think back on the last time you held a grudge. What did that feel like?
Did you have a pit in your stomach?
Did you have trouble sleeping?
Were you distracted from other, more important things?
What additional cost to your mental health did you pay because you chose to stay angry at the other person?
Holding a grudge isn’t good for you. Not only that but the person you’re holding the grudge against probably doesn’t even remember what they did.
They are not suffering because you’re upset. You are.
You’re holding on to all that negativity and it’s solely poisoning you.
It doesn’t stop at affecting your mental health, all this anger and resentment can and will make you physically sick.
Your blood pressure goes up; your immune response goes down.
You’re not sleeping well which has other health implications, and let’s not even talk about all the junk food you’re eating while in this state of stress.
Don’t let holding a grudge make you sick. Instead, focus on forgiveness and gratitude.
Take a deep breath and find it in your heart to forgive the other person.
It can feel like the hardest thing, but it is within your power. Be the better person. Take the higher road.
Do it for yourself because you know you will instantly feel better and it will do wonders for your mental and physical health and wellbeing.
The Power Of Forgiveness
Forgiveness isn’t really about the person you are forgiving.
Sure, there are times when they appreciate or even demand your forgiveness. But even so, the person benefiting the most is you.
Forgiveness isn’t for the other person. It’s what sets you free and allows you to pursue happiness and be fulfilled in your own life.
It improves your mental wellbeing and your physical health. It makes you sleep better at night and have a good outlook on life.
Don’t let that old grudge steal your happiness. Practice forgiveness and feel gratitude that you have it in your power to decide if you let any slight hold you back or not.
4) Happiness Is A Conscious Focus.
What you focus on comes to pass.
When you practice gratitude you are training your mind to be more positive and this does some amazing things to your brain chemistry.
Positive thinking affects the release of certain chemicals and neurotransmitters that influence how you feel both physically and mentally.
Let’s take a look at how that works.
More Feel-Good Hormones
Focusing on happiness and gratitude leads to the release of two “feel good” hormones – dopamine and serotonin.
These two neurotransmitters are responsible for those fuzzy warm feelings.
Yes, there are other ways to get them like exercise and chocolate for example.
But who wouldn’t want to increase these powerful antidepressants with something as simple as giving and receiving gratitude?
Fewer Stress Hormones
When you are anxious or scared, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol.
This helps you to react fast in dangerous situations and is often known as the fight or flight response.
This response is only designed to be short term
When you release stress hormones in response to something that isn’t physical danger like worrying about what someone else thinks about you, you subject your body to stress hormones over a longer period of time, gradually sapping your health and wellbeing.
Increased stress hormones can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, and they take a toll on your heart.
You know you should do what you can to reduce stress and as it turns out, one of the most powerful strategies is practicing gratitude and positive thinking.
So choose happiness and know that you are doing wonders for your mental and physical health.
So what’s the bottom line? When you are mindful of all of the things you are grateful for in your life then you can learn to appreciate all the good even in the midst of the bad and cultivate happiness.
Stop waiting for the right person, the right circumstances. Don’t wait for happiness to find you. Be happy right now. At this moment. And use gratitude to help you get there.
5) Staying Positive When Life Falls Apart
We take a lot of good things for granted in our everyday life.
A roof over our heads, a steady paycheck, a loving family, the ability to go out for a run on the weekends.
The specifics vary, but one of the big advantages of modern lives is the many awesome things we can count on.
We’re not used to falling short, so when something happens and our life starts to fall apart, it’s easy to fall into thinking patterns that focus on lack and despair.
Sometimes the bad things are a result of choices we made. Sometimes they are outside of our control.
In either case, it is up to us to decide how we react to each crisis.
No matter what adversity you face make sure you don’t forget about how blessed you really are.
This is summed up so well by a favorite quote of mine:
Think about how you can start to do this in your everyday life.
A good place to start is to simply take a deep breath and pause for a moment when things go wrong and everything is starting to feel overwhelming.
Then come up with one little thing you are grateful for during this time.
It can be something as simple as being able to breathe fresh, clean air, or living to fight another day.
Find that something and start to build on it. What else are you grateful for?
Keep making that mental list until the desperation starts to lift and you can start to think clearly.
When you do, you can start to find your way out, no matter how bad things seem at first.
You never know what good might come from the struggle you are facing right now.
6) But What If You’re Stuck In Negativity?
Practicing gratitude and focusing on positivity is easier said than done.
Especially if you are struggling with anxiety and depression.
If you find yourself spiraling into the deep pit of depression the best thing you can do for yourself is seek help. Grateful thoughts have positive effects on your mood and wellbeing but they are not sufficient to lift you out of clinical depression.
When things aren’t quite that bad, there’s a lot you can do to get yourself unstuck from all that negativity.
Identify Your Feelings
Start by acknowledging your feelings and putting them into words.
How exactly do you feel?
Is it anger or annoyance?
Frustration or disappointment?
Try to be specific. Dig deep. Yes, it can be painful and some people prefer to avoid thinking about these feelings, but the first step to getting yourself unstuck is determining exactly where you are emotionally.
Once you’ve identified the feeling, you can start to work on discovering what caused them.
Sometimes the answer is obvious. Other times, not so much.
In either case, I encourage you to dig deep because often the obvious answer isn’t the real root cause.
Yes, you may be mad at our spouse for running up the credit card bill, but if you dig deep, you may discover that there are some underlying core values that don’t align between the two of you.
Once you find the true reason for your negative feelings, you can start to work to resolve them.
What that looks like will vary from case to case.
The important takeaway here is that it gives you something specific and meaningful to do.
You no longer feel out of control or helpless. It’s something you can work with and that alone will help you think more positively.
In addition, it allows you to distance yourself a little from the negative feelings.
You may still be upset with your spouse, but it also gives you the space to remember everything you love about them.
It gives you the space to act outside of the negativity and have a good relationship while you work things out.
Sometimes, it may give you the mental space you need to realize that it is up to you to decide if you want to continue to dwell in the negativity or choose a route of forgiveness.
You can’t change everything or everyone. Sometimes your path toward positivity is to acknowledge your negative feelings and then let them go.
Let Go Of Negativity
Of course, all of this is easier said than done.
Try talking to a close friend or confidant when you feel stuck and you can’t see a path towards positivity. An outside perspective can give a lot of clarity.
Try and put yourself in the best position to receive positivity. Get outside and enjoy nature, play your favorite songs in your favorite place, and don’t forget to remind yourself regularly of everything you have to be grateful for.
7) Sharing Gratitude With The World
Practicing gratitude regularly has a big impact on your life, your health, and your mental and emotional wellbeing. But it doesn’t end there.
It will also have a big impact on those around you and the world at large when you start to turn your gratitude outwards and do positive things for others.
There is no telling how many lives you could influence for the better.
Let’s take a look at some examples:
A Random Act of Kindness
This can be something as simple as giving an open and honest smile to a stranger on the street or a few kind words and a compliment for the cashier ringing up your groceries.
Or it could be taking a meal to an elderly family member or buying a drink for the person behind you in the coffee shop drive-thru line.
These small things can really brighten someone’s day. Make it a goal to do something kind for someone each day and do it intentionally.
Respect And Thank Those Who Serve You
There are so many people in our communities that serve us from first responders to the waitress at your favorite restaurant.
Make it a point to be respectful and thank them with words, with actions, and in the case of that waitress with a generous tip.
Show them how grateful you are for everything they do to make life easier.
Volunteer In Your Community
What better way to express gratitude than to give your time and your skills.
There are many opportunities for anyone to volunteer in various projects and for a variety of different causes.
See what’s available around you and make an effort to put in some time to volunteer each month.
The great thing is not only is it a wonderful way to give back and spread gratitude, but you’ll be amazed at how much you get out of it.
Develop Deeper Relationships
Last but not least, I would like to encourage you to work on developing deeper relationships.
You will have a stronger sense of gratitude and lead by example when you take the time to listen and actively work on coming closer to the people you love.
Now that you have some ideas, the ball is in your court. What will you do today, this week, or this month to spread gratitude in your own circle of influence?
Go out there and make an impact. Make the world a better and more grateful place.
8) Living Abundantly By Showing And Sharing Gratitude
Would you like to live abundantly full of happiness and contentment?
How about a life with excellent physical and mental health?
Greatly increase your chances of that happening by showing and sharing gratitude.
Something as simple as practicing thankfulness and expressing how grateful you are for the people and things you have in your life has a powerful impact.
Here are some simple things you can do starting today to show your gratitude.
- Tell the people you love how grateful you are for them. We often take the ones closest to us for granted. Make a point to do it regularly and be specific to make it meaningful.
- Think about the people who challenge you. Express your gratitude for how they help you grow and make you stronger.
- Give the gift of your time to someone to show without words how grateful you are to have them in your life. This is particularly important for the elderly people in your life. Your time with them is limited. Make the most of it.
- Forgive yourself when you don’t reach all your goals, or things don’t go your way. Be grateful for what you have and what you are learning from each experience.
- Compliment the people around you. Make them feel good about themselves. It’s a powerful way to show gratitude in an indirect way. Small, meaningful gifts and acts of service do the same.
- Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone you work with or a total stranger. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to spread gratitude and bring more positivity into the world.
- Give a hug and a kind word to someone who’s struggling. Show them through physical affection that you’re there for them and grateful to have them in your life.
- Show your body and mind gratitude for what they do for you day in and day out by taking care of yourself and investing in regular self-care.
I’ll leave you with a quote. Take a moment to read it, re-read it, and really let it sink in.
9) The 30 Days Of Gratitude Challenge
Congratulations! You’ve reached the end
Your commitment to this challenge has put you in prime position to see the best results.
The best way to enjoy this challenge is to resist the urge to read all the prompt ideas in one go and experience each one daily.
When you have finished you will have a gratitude list of 30 pages of things that bring you joy in your life.
Be sure to keep it safe, and make sure it’s the first thing you pick up when you’re having a bad day.
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I’d love to hear about your positive experiences. Let me know in the comments what aspect of your life are you hoping to improve with a daily gratitude practice?