Healthy aging matters in each moment of your life. While there is no break from the passage of time, practicing gratitude will help enhance resilience, well-being and happiness at every age. For wellness professionals and their clients, now is the perfect time to start.
Simply put, gratitude is the quality of being thankful, an acknowledgement and affirmation that there are good things in your life. The ability to feel gratitude is the ability to look outward, to understand that you are the recipient of positivity. What you feel grateful for doesn’t have to be major; gratitude can simply be a filter through which you look at your life. Choosing an attitude that centers around being thankful, to feel the warmth of happiness and the resilience of optimism, can make it easier to recognize the bounty of good things around you. Practicing gratitude means taking nothing for granted and welcoming a sense of wonder and appreciation back into each moment.
When I lead mindfulness sessions at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, I teach guests about how “neuroplasticity” can provide a benefit by shaping new pathways in the brain. When you practice mindfulness repeatedly, the neurons in your brain begin to connect differently and support a new pattern, so that you’ll find it easier to call upon mindfulness when you need it. The same is true with gratitude: The more you practice it, actively choosing to be grateful for even the smallest of things, the more your brain will be aware of the positivity that permeates your days.
How It Helps
Gratitude increases optimism, and becoming more optimistic changes the filter through which you see the world and the story you tell yourself. When you’re able to notice things you’re grateful for, you begin to feel an energetic shift, a greater ability to feel happier and more positive by becoming more thankful.
Aside from the mental and emotional benefits that practicing gratitude can bring, there are also physical benefits that can be enjoyed by simply choosing to be more grateful. When you recognize that you are thankful for something, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin, both of which can help you feel happier and less stressed. By practicing gratitude, you are actually strengthening the neural pathways that enhance your well-being in so many ways.
Nina Smiley, PhD, director of mindfulness programming at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, holds a doctoral degree in psychology from Princeton University. She is the coauthor of The Three Minute Meditator and Mindfulness in Nature, as well as the CD “Mini-Meditations That Will Enhance Your Life.” Smiley has studied mindfulness with Jack Kornfield, founder of Spirit Rock Meditation Center, and Sharon Salzberg, cofounder of Insight Meditation Society, among others. She delights in sharing insights about meditation and wellness, and her work has been featured in numerous renowned publications.