Headlines touting the health benefits of gratitude are abundant these days—and for good reason! Research shows a daily gratitude practice can reduce heart attack risk, strengthen the immune system, improve sleep quality, and boost productivity at work.
Want to jump on the good-health, gratitude train? Like other health and fitness goals, developing a more grateful attitude is all about repetition. “If you’re consistent with your gratitude practice, it becomes automatic for your mind to shift into positive thinking when life gets tough,” says Lorraine Miller, a gratitude coach and author of the award-winning journal From Gratitude to Bliss: A Journey in Health and Happiness. But that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours honing your gratitude muscle. “If your practice takes a lot of time, you’re less likely to do it everyday,” says Miller. “Aim to devote just five minutes of your day to thinking about what you’re grateful for, and if you miss a day—not a big deal, you can pick it up again tomorrow.”
Here are five simple ways to spend five minutes getting grateful today.
Keep a Journal
“Keeping a gratitude journal is powerful, because it creates consistency and becomes a dedicated space for your practice,” says Miller. Spend five minutes filling up a few lines in a notebook everyday. When you’re not sure what to write about, or if you’re having a rough day, you can flip back a few pages for a reminder on why life is so great.
Make It a Dinner Conversation
“Finding a way to weave your gratitude practice into an existing routine will help you stay on track,” says Miller. One great way to do just that: make room for gratitude at the dinner table. Go around and have each family member name one thing they’re grateful for today.
Take a Walk
Turn your next fitness activity into a gratitude session. “I love doing this when I’m walking with my son in the stroller,” says Miller. “I’ll dedicate the first five minutes to practicing gratitude,” she says. Want to pick up the pace? Identify something to be grateful for at each mile marker of your next run. Or use the timer on the cardio machine at the gym to your advantage—challenge yourself to flex your gratitude muscle each time the number 5 flashes on the screen.
Change Your Mirror Talk
Instead of noticing jiggly thighs, take a look at your powerful legs in the mirror and thank them for all the steps they’ve helped you take. “People struggle so much with exercise and body image,” says Miller, “and often it’s because we forget to thank our body for the incredible things it does for us everyday,” she says. Shift your mindset, and you might notice it becomes easier for you to nail your goals. “I’ve met many people who have dramatically improved their health, and the common denominator is gratitude,” says Miller.
Write (& Send!) a Thank-You
Whether you pull out a pen and paper or draft an email, taking five minutes to thank someone can have a powerful impact on you and the recipient. “Gratitude does wonders for improving your relationships at home and at work,” says Miller. Try this with a coworker who might be getting on your nerves: “Seek out something authentic to thank them for—a job well done, for instance, and send them a note. You’ll notice your gratitude motivates others to be grateful, and negative feelings will begin to lift.”
Eager to get your gratitude practice going? Tell us what you’re grateful for today in the comments!
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.