Everyone knows that just a few simple changes can really make a difference in your overall physical health. Eating well is a great way to get started, making sure to get the proper, nutritionally balanced foods while avoiding junk. Exercise also provides health benefits by burning excess calories, working muscles, and stretching.
These days, however, mental health self-care is just as important as caring for our physical bodies and physical health. It’s true, some issues are on a very different scale than others, but to stay on a maintenance path to better mental well-being, it could be as simple as cultivating a bit more gratitude and positivity.
Before we get into it, let's define gratitude. According to the Miriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of gratitude is:
Now, let's dive into ways to practice gratitude and positivity!
Gratitude and Your Homeschool
Learn to be Positive
Anyone who has ever learned a musical instrument or a sport or has learned to speak another language beyond their native tongue can tell you that, yes, it’s certainly possible to learn lots of new things. There’s no reason to believe that one cannot also learn to be positive as well.
In a game of Tetris, for instance, you will learn how to recognize certain patterns and where they fit. In much the same way, you can learn how to have a more positive outlook, and to begin to see added possibilities, good things happening around you, and so many other things in your daily life that can lead to a greater level of life satisfaction.
Retrain Your Brain
Retraining your brain, especially if you have been through really bad situations or trauma, can seem impossible. But you can do it! It can be as easy as simply looking for three single positive things about each day.
Start a gratitude journal! When your day is done, find a place to make a note of three things that you consider to be good, as well as a quick reflective quip about what was going on that put that “good thing” into motion. It could be as simple as seeing something beautiful, having a great conversation with someone, creating a memory with a loved one or family member, or receiving a compliment.
The more often you practice gratitude journaling by recording three good things, the more you’ll start to recognize the good as soon as it happens. This is really what an attitude of gratitude is all about. You recognize a great moment while it’s happening. Doing this over and over creates a habit that can truly change your life. This expression of gratitude will greatly change your life and your mindfulness for everyday moments.
Random acts of kindness won’t just change your life, they will change the lives of those touched by your kindness. Even through the little things! Buy someone’s coffee or lunch. Offer to return a shopping cart for someone who’s just unloaded their groceries. These random acts may not seem like much, but to the person you’re impacting, it could mean the world.
Another positive enhancement is to compliment at least one person each day. Just like making notes of three positive things that happened in your day, this compliment process may feel “fake” as you begin. But the more you practice, the more you’ll see how it becomes a genuine expression of your character. What’s more, once you see that you are making a difference in someone else’s life, you may find yourself simply looking for opportunities to do this! This act of complimenting one person a day will give your recipient a great feeling of appreciation! You never know how much that person may have needed that compliment. This will also help with positive emotions in your own life seeing how people light up when you compliment them.
The Tests Are In!
The effects of gratitude were very simply measured by a research group from Indiana University. Forty-three people, all suffering from either depression or anxiety, were chosen, with half of them given the simple task of writing thank you notes to people as the necessity arose. This experiment went on for three months, and then brain scans were taken of all forty-three.
These letter-writers continued to have feelings of gratitude, even after a couple of weeks and were even found to have long-lasting effects that were particularly worth noting. Negative emotions decreased, with higher levels of gratitude and positive emotions. The simple letter of gratitude to a loved one was very beneficial to their mental health which in turn is beneficial to their physical health!
In addition to making you feel better mentally, gratitude can also have an effect on your physical health as well. The physical attributes that often accompany depression and anxiety can be diminished. There will be noticeably fewer mood swings, inflammation, and fatigue. The quality of sleep can even be improved, simply by learning gratefulness.
Because the hypothalamus is affected in gratitude, it also creates improved emotional responses, proper appetite, stronger immune system, and even helps regulate body temperature.
The benefits of gratitude are numerous even with simple acts, why not try some for yourself? You might be surprised to find that these aren’t simply “results of scientific studies” but can actually become real in your own life.
As studies have shown, it really doesn’t take away from your daily routine. In fact, the benefits are such an enhancement that it should be part of your homeschool curriculum, as well. These are also great things to instill in your kids at a young age! These small acts of gratitude will turn them into very kind and loving individuals!
Now that 2020 is upon us, what better time to cultivate these good habits for a happy New Year!