How many times a day do you give thanks for your gifts, your family, and for the blessings in your life? I’ll admit, some days I am not as intentional about expressing the gratitude I should. Immediately, though, when I realize I haven’t done so, I understand why I might feel off balance.

The truth is it’s difficult for most of us to stop and take the time to express our appreciation as we are caught in the ups and downs of our daily lives, especially if you’re hitting great stride in your career or raising small children. But a gratitude routine can help reduce stress, contribute to greater feelings of overall happiness, and improve your mental health (just to name a few of the benefits).

Here are three ways that being mindful of all you have can improve your “return on life” and even inspire you to spread that gratitude to your loved ones and your wider community.

Give Thanks. Feel Happier.

According to positive psychology research, “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

The pursuit of happiness is a hot topic. But the thing about happiness is that the events and circumstances that lead us to feel “happy” aren’t always present. In fact, they are fleeting by
nature, so we must learn to cultivate feelings of happiness on our own. We can do so by incorporating gratitude exercises into our daily lives as you will see in more detail below.

Reduce Stress and Improve Both Mental and Physical Health

What are some things that have the potential to stress you out on a daily basis? A bad hair day? Waking up on the wrong side of the bed? Burnt toast? There are a million little events each day that have the capability of making us feel frustrated, upset, or stressed. But no matter where you are or what you’re doing, your focus can be shifted to something positive.

Research has shown time and again that consciously giving thanks and counting your blessings can help you sleep better, lower stress, and improve interpersonal relationships. This is why many folks make gratitude practices part of their morning and nightly routines—to set the day up for success by reducing stress early on and to improve sleep patterns by doing the same at night.

Stress isn’t just discomfort you feel emotionally, it can also harm your body and have lasting effects on your health. Weight loss resistance, acne, high blood pressure, and gut disorders can
all be byproducts of too much stress. So, by priming our brains for thanks, thus improving our sleep and lowering stress, we position our physical bodies to perform more optimally, as well.

Rewire the Brain for Increased Creativity and Productivity

You’ve likely heard that a negative mindset leads to more negativity, but did you know that thinking more positively about a situation or circumstance can lead to feelings of gratitude?
And that gratitude can result in more creative thinking, increased mental productivity, and a longer attention span.

But don’t just take our word for it—it’s science. According to a study conducted in 2008, “gratitude causes synchronized activation in multiple brain regions, and lights up parts of the brain’s reward pathways and the hypothalamus. In short, gratitude can boost neurotransmitter serotonin and activate the brain stem to produce dopamine."

Lucky for us, our brains are highly elastic, meaning they can change based on our own behaviors. Rewiring the brain for gratitude takes some practice, but you will likely start to see the benefits of these exercises right away.

Ways to Practice Gratitude Daily

These exercises are a few popular options for working gratitude into your daily life, but feel free to explore other options and decide on a couple that feel right for you.

  • Give more: A study by the University of Birmingham, Edgbaston's Jubilee Centre for Character and Virtues found that the values of gratitude and compassion mutually reinforce each other. When we appreciate the things that we have, we're more sensitive to what those around us don't have. That feeling can lead us to some of the most fulfilling uses of our resources, such as making sustained charitable donations and volunteering.
  • Write it down or meditate: Many folks finding writing out what they are grateful for or meditating on it in stillness triggers the brain to release dopamine and primes their day for success.
  • Say it out loud: Showing gratitude towards loved ones can also improve the most important relationships in our lives. Just saying “thank you” to your spouse more often can have a profound effect on how both of you feel towards each other.
  • Teach your children: Make it a habit to set aside a block of time to go over gratitude practices with your child to encourage a positive way of life.

Gratitude Can Improve Your Return on Life

Our Financial Life Planning tools can also be a powerful source of gratitude. Not only do we work together to describe a future that is complete and richly yours, but review what you’ve
been through to get where you are today. That’s all part of writing the next chapter of your life with a Financial Life Plan.

To learn more about our life-centered approach to financial planning, I encourage you to watch my webinar on Financial Life Planning here. And when you’re ready, let’s meet and start planning for what’s next.

The opinions voiced in this material are for general information only and are not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.