Six Ways to Grow Your Gratitude as You Age


If you haven’t heard the hype about gratitude, listen up. Research has shown that it can improve mood and self-confidence to increase energy and resiliency. But there’s even more reason to be grateful as a senior adult: According to the National Council on Aging, gratitude promotes better sleep, higher rates of good cholesterol, and greater social connectedness — all of which can bolster well-being and add years to your life. Of course, giving and expressing thanks doesn’t come easy for everyone, plus gratitude takes some nurturing to reap the total rewards. There’s no time like the present to grow this life-changing virtue, and these six ideas can help. So give them a try; you’ll be grateful you did.

Connect with Nature

Do you feel like you’ve taken the trees and stars for granted all these years? There’s so much beauty, mystery, and intrigue to behold in the natural world. Giving it the attention it deserves will bring a sense of awe and appreciation. So head outdoors for a stroll in the park or take a scenic drive and marvel at the colors and unique landscape. Being out in the elements won’t just make you thankful for all the gifts the earth provides, though; your health will benefit too. Studies indicate spending time in nature can reduce anxiety, strengthen immunity, and improve short-term memory.

Practice Saying Thank You

Practice makes just about anything easier, including gratitude. Try a new approach if you’ve been negligent about saying thank you, especially for the small gestures. For example, next time your spouse cooks dinner for you or a friend calls to say hello, thank them. Using intentionality and acknowledging the little kindnesses help you grow more grateful for the bigger blessings in life. The more you practice being thankful, the more it will become a natural part of your daily interactions. Gratitude is contagious, too. By saying thank you, you help foster appreciation in others.

Rethink Past Hardships

No one likes to ruminate on the difficulties of the past, but doing so can have a profoundly positive effect on your life today. Try looking for the silver lining in the struggles and challenges of your earlier years and consider how you overcame dire circumstances and endured. You might see more clearly how a hardship helped steer you in a new direction that proved beneficial in the long run. Even in tough times, reflecting on the past can stir up enormous gratitude for the present. You’ll also be thankful for the wisdom you glean to pass on to younger generations.

Delve into Your Spirituality

The inner being serves a critical purpose in the senior years: it’s a powerful source of peace, strength, wellness — and gratitude. By exploring your spirituality, you discover deeper purpose and meaning in life and develop an appreciation for what matters to you and in the world around you. Spirituality comes in many forms, so there’s a way to tap in that suits every background and personality. For example, you might join a religious study or prayer group, engage in mindfulness meditation, recite affirmations, take a spiritual yoga class, or read inspirational books or scripture passages.

Be Others Oriented

It’s easy to become consumed with your problems, especially those that come with aging. But dwelling on the older self can bring fear, anxiety, dissatisfaction, and regret. One of the best ways to alleviate the negativity is to shift your focus to others in need. Not only will the distraction lift the weight of your worries, but thinking about and helping others will make you grateful for the good fortune in your life and the opportunity to be helpful to someone else. Ways to do that? Offer to help with the grandkids, accept a volunteer position, or prepare a meal for an ailing friend.

Set Aside Daily Gratitude Time

With more flexibility and freedom during the senior years than ever before, you’ll find that working out time to grow your gratitude is an achievable and worthwhile goal. Set aside a half-hour or more each day to journal or meditate on things you’re thankful for. Even a hobby like painting can be a unique outlet for cultivating gratitude by allowing you to express your appreciation through art. Then, insert gratitude time in your schedule and commit to following through. The activity will bring fulfillment, satisfaction, and a wellness-promoting reprieve to your daily routine.

It’s never too late to grow more grateful. You’ll enjoy the journey, and the benefits will pay off in better health, increased happiness, and more years to appreciate all life offers.

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