Gratitude

11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

11 Ways to Cultivate Resilience

Photo by Simon Schmitt on Unsplash

“I am not what happened to me. I am what I choose to become.” – Carl Jung

 

Bouncing back is a concept well understood in the context of recovering from a sports injury. Following favorite players’ comeback stories fills fans with inspiration, encourages perseverance in pursuit of personal goals, and fosters a sense of self-confidence, like we can do it if they can. Cultivating resilience in the face of all life’s challenges is a proactive way of dealing with the unexpected, the upsets and disappointments, the pitfalls and successes in life, including how to cope with trauma, chronic pain, adversity and tragedy.

RESILIENCE: WHAT IT’S ALL ABOUT

An article in Forbes defines resilience as “the capacity for stress-related growth” and states that resilience has two parts related to the way you bounce back and grow:

  • From big work or life adversity and trauma
  • From dealing with daily hassles and stress

A study in Health Psychology showed that the frequency and intensity of repeated or chronic everyday life strains is strongly associated with overall health and illness, even more so than major life events.

A 2013 study found that exposure to chronic frequent negative emotion and the inability to process daily stress exacts a long-term toll on mental health.

Resilience, say researchers in an article published in Trauma, Violence & Abuse, can manifest either as “prosocial behaviors or pathological adaptation depending on the quality of the environment.” If individuals suffering from lasting effects of trauma and adversity have access to resources that help them cope, they will be more likely to develop prosocial behaviors that may facilitate healing.

Rolbieki et al. (2017) explored resilience among patients living with chronic pain and found that they showed resiliency in four ways: developing a sense of control (actively seeking information and conferring with their doctor to confirm his/her recommendations; actively engaging in both medical and complementary treatment; making social connections and exhibiting acceptance of pain and positive effect.

One surprising finding is that chronic stress accelerates aging at the cellular level – in the body’s telomeres. These are the repeating segments of non-coding DNA at the end of chromosomes. Scientists have discovered that telomeres can be lengthened or shortened – so the goal is to have more days of renewal of cells than destruction or wear and tear on them.

Researchers suggest resilience should be regarded as an emotional muscle, one that can be strengthened and cultivated. Dr. Dennis Charney, co-author of “Resilience: The Science of Mastering Life’s Greatest Challenge,” says people can weather and recover from trauma by developing and incorporating 10 resilience skills, including facing fear, optimism and social support. Dr. Charney, resilience researcher and dean of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, was shot as he exited a deli. Following the shooting, Dr. Charney faced a long and difficult recovery. The resilience researcher himself had to employ strategies of coping he’d studied and taught.

The American Psychological Association (APA) says that resilience isn’t a trait that people either have or don’t. Instead, resilience “involves behaviors, thoughts and actions that can be learned and developed in anyone.”

WAYS TO CULTIVATE RESILIENCE

Among the varied ways to develop and cultivate resilience, some are more self-evident than others, yet each is worth a try when attempting to weather life’s challenges.

Act.

Even small steps add to a sense of accomplishment, of being proactive instead of reactive. Start with something you feel confident you can do and ask for help if you need it. There’s a lot to be said about self-empowerment when you act in your own best interests. After all, no one else can act for you.

Add to coping resources.

Everyone can benefit from having a toolkit of effective coping resources. Combat stress, depression, anxiety and other emotional, psychological and physical issues and conditions through meditation, mindful yoga, exercise and whatever helps you relax, including reading, music, doing puzzles, painting, writing and more.

Learn flexibility.

Instead of regarding your situation as no-win, steer towards an attitude of flexibility. Learn the art of compromise, as in, “I may not be able to run a marathon, yet I can manage a walk in the neighborhood with friends.” In addition, when running into fatigue or pain that prevents you from continuing, congratulate yourself on your effort and the fact that you acted to improve your resilience. Over time, you’ll get stronger and be able to do more, thus adding to your resilience and helping to improve your overall physical and mental health.

Practice optimism.

Science says that some optimism is genetic, while some is learned. You can train yourself with practice in positive self-thinking to see opportunity instead of a dead-end, to view a glass as half full instead of half empty. There’s also truth in self-fulfilling attitudes. If you believe you’ll be successful in overcoming adversity, you’re more likely to succeed. The opposite is also true: If you think you’ll fail, you probably will.

Take advantage of support.

When you need help, it’s OK to ask for it. In fact, when you know you have support available and are willing to use it, you’re exercising prosocial behavior. Similarly, when you can do so, offer your support to others who may need it.

Avoid personalizing.

There’s no point in engaging in blame or endlessly thinking about your situation. Besides being counter-productive, it makes you feel worse. Make use of some of the healthy coping measures you’ve successfully used before and stop ruminating about what happened to you.

Regard the setback/disappointment as temporary.

Nothing lasts forever, not even life-altering events, trauma, adversity and pain. You can navigate through this turbulent and emotionally trying time by realizing that this is temporary, and things will get better with your active involvement in your healing process.

Write your new story.

Psychiatrists and psychologists call this “reframing” and it refers to changing your story to focus on the opportunities revealed. For example, say you’ve returned from active deployment in a war zone with extensive physical and psychological injuries. Instead of remaining steeped in the negative aspects of your experience, allow yourself to center on other senses, traits, skills and resources you have at your disposal – your empathy, understanding, ability to solve problems, a wide support network, loving family and close friends.

Cultivate gratitude.

When you are grateful and actively cultivate gratitude, you are taking advantage of a basic part of resilience and in contentment in life. The more you develop gratitude, the more resilient you’ll become.

Remind yourself of other victories.

This may be an intensely challenging time for you, a time when failures and negativity seem paramount and inevitable. Now is when you must remind yourself of your past successes, examples of seemingly impossible hurdles you’ve overcome, victories you’ve scored. This serves as self-reminder that you’ve come back from adversity before. You can do it again.

Enhance spirituality.

Religion and spirituality have been shown as predictors of resilience in various populations studied, including returning war veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), trauma sufferers, children and adults who experience abuse or violence, patients enduring chronic pain. Prayer, self-reflection, communicating with a Higher Power serves as a healing balm to many who otherwise may resort to negative coping behaviors, such as drinking and drug use.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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11 Ways to Simplify and Enjoy Your Life More

 

11 Ways to Simplify and Enjoy Your Life More

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

“Our life is frittered away by detail…simplify, simplify.”Henry David Thoreau

 

If the idea of simplifying your life is appealing, you might be more motivated and likely to get started on this goal if you can find an easier way to do it. Complicated lists filled with difficult tasks won’t get the job done.  What will, however, are ways that are both easily-understood and generally easier to do and have the added benefit of helping you get more enjoyment out of life. Here are 11 to try.

Streamline your to-do lists.

Most efficiency and time-management experts recommend streamlining items on your to-do lists. There’s good reason for this, since having less items staring you in the face daily helps remove the gnawing impediment of impossible-to-achieve success. Maybe you have 20 tasks, projects and objectives you’ve told yourself are essential. That’s too many. No wonder you get frustrated and abandon or put off working on them. Start by paring the numbers, doing away with the nonessential and non-value-added ones.

Focus on quality, not quantity.

It’s easy to lose enthusiasm and get lost in the muddiness of details, timelines and complexity of too many goals. Instead of generating momentum, the opposite is likely to occur. The solution? Once you’ve pared your to-do lists, focus on delivering quality results, not half-hearted and hastily completed items that add up to an arbitrary and too high a number. Remember, you’ll get more satisfaction out of producing a quality result than several that are less-than-your-best effort versions.

Do what matters most to you personally.

Simply put, when you do what you find valuable and focus on what matters most to you personally, you’re much more likely to be motivated to begin with and to follow through to completion. Tackling goals, projects and tasks that you don’t feel strongly about or that don’t align with your values will drain your enthusiasm as well as your energy. It will also add complexity to your life that will leave you feeling less satisfied overall. On the other hand, when you get to work on what excites and interests you, time will fly, and it will seem less like work and more like fun. Isn’t that a terrific way to enjoy your life more?

Create desirable goals and create workable plans to achieve them.

In line with streamlining to-do lists and focusing on quality over quantity, another highly-recommended way to simplify your life and enjoy it more is to create desirable goals and workable plans to achieve them. You may identify an overarching goal, such as getting your college degree, buying a home, getting married and starting a family, or a few seemingly-unrelated goals, even some that are tangential. If it stimulates your interest enough to research and pursue, it’s worth adding to your list. Keep in mind that goals and plans are a work-in-progress strategy, something you revise as your interests and objectives change, you achieve some and identify others. It’s also a great feeling to tick off the successes as you make your way through your goal list.

Eliminate sources of stress – and find effective ways to keep stress at bay.

Stress, especially chronic stress, depletes you in every possible way. There are numerous physical consequences of stress, as well as emotional and psychological ramifications of this insidious condition. Learn how to recognize stress, whether the cause is something at work, relationship oriented, self-generated, or environmental. Get rid of the stress sources that you can and then research and put into practice effective ways to keep recurring stress from negatively affecting your life. One proven method to reduce stress is exercise, and experts say almost any exercise will help to manage stress.

Focus on a few true friends.

Trying to please 100 friends or follow up and stay in contact with a 1,000 or more social media contacts is a losing proposition. Casual contacts, commenting on posts, celebrating milestones is one thing, but you simply cannot maintain high-quality friendships with that many individuals. Instead, single out those who you value as true friends. Spend one-on-one time with them as often as possible and practical and be truly with them when you are together. This is both satisfying and personally enriching as well as adds to your overall well-being and life enjoyment.

Clean out your closets and de-clutter your surroundings.

A UCLA study on “The Clutter Culture” found that the need to constantly reward ourselves with material things, to offset the stress of the workplace and life in general, instead contributes to increased stress. At least it did for moms in the survey of American families. One of the quickest ways to get busy simplifying your life is to literally clean out your closets and buckle down to declutter your surroundings at home. Researchers in the study found that participants mentioned parking their cars on the street, so they could store accumulated stuff in the garage and piling the dirty laundry in the shower because there’s no other convenient place to stash it out of the way. How many of us have garments and objects ferreted away in the closet and drawers that have never been used, still have the price tags on them and have gone out of style? Start with your wardrobe and keep going from there. Once you’ve got piles of things you never wear or use, are still serviceable and potentially useful to others, donate them to a worthy charity. Recycle, repurpose or toss out everything else. Trust me, this suggestion is very effective in both simplifying your life and helping you find more joy in it.

Practice gratitude daily.

There must be something you’re grateful for, even if what that is does not spring immediately to mind. Start by acknowledging the gift of life today. Go on to express mental thanks for all that you’ve been given, whether that’s good health, recovery from illness, accident or injury, a satisfying job, plentiful friends or something else. Being grateful is a personal sentiment in the sense that you’re putting out to the universe a thank-you for what you value. The more you practice gratitude daily, the more your well-being will improve and the happier with your life you’ll be.

Enrich your spirituality.

Along with expressing gratitude every day, find ways to nourish and enrich your spirit and your spirituality. This may mean going to the church, temple or synagogue or being outside in nature and reflecting on a Higher Power. It may involve meditation, yoga, visualization exercises, imagery, focused breathing or some other technique to connect you to your inner self and the overarching meaning of life. A sense of connectedness to the universe, to the God as you know Him or Her is always beneficial in expanding your enjoyment of this precious life on earth, altogether fleeting and worthy of spending what time you have well.

Make time for yourself.

It isn’t selfish or self-centered to carve out time to do what gives you pleasure. On the contrary, making time for yourself is an endeavor that’s both life-affirming and produces a sense of joy and satisfaction. Go for that walk in nature. Meet with friends. Relax with a good book. Garden. Pass the hours involved in a hobby, gardening, sports or other form of relaxation or activity. You’ll know you’ve simplified your life if you feel good about allocating time in your daily schedule to do what you like. It will also make today much more enjoyable.

Live in the present.

In addition to creating space and room in your life through simplification of non-essential, non-value-added items and activities, focusing on doing what matters most to you personally, spending time on yourself, eliminating sources of stress, prizing a few true friends, creating desirable and workable goals and plans, exercising gratitude, nurturing your spirituality and embracing quality over quantity, you’re primed and ready to accept and practice living in the present. This is also called mindfulness. Frankly, the present is when you live. You cannot relive the past or experience the future. Today is it. Make the most of today by fully being present in the moment. It doesn’t get any simpler or better than that to enjoy your life more.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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5 Ways to Let It Flow

Photo by Rachel Davis on Unsplash

Photo by Rachel Davis on Unsplash

“The mind is like a river, and, as with a river, there’s no point in trying to stop its flow.” – Mingyur Rinpoche

 

You know when you get into a groove, you just want to keep on going. You might say you’re “in the flow,” “going with the flow,” “in your sweet spot,” or some other catchy phrase.

It feels good.

You want it to continue.

Why don’t you let it?

The truth is that everyone is surrounded by distractions. Some of them are pesky and quickly swatted away, like a bug you don’t have time for yet keeps coming back. Others, however, are more beyond or out of your control, like your boss who suddenly interrupts your work with an urgent project. Don’t you just hate that?

Once you stop what you’re doing – and this is hard to do, by the way – it’s even harder to get back into the flow. Once again, most everyone can relate to this, some more than others. I know I’ve experienced this nuisance dozens of times in my corporate career.

Still, back to crux of the matter and what most of us want to know is, what can you do to allow the flow to continue while still tending to what must be done?

Interesting conundrum. While there aren’t any hard and fast answers, here are a few suggestions I’ve used with satisfactory results that may prove helpful:

Hit the pause button.

See if you can hit the pause button in your mind. Without completely disengaging, you might consider saying something to your boss like, “I’ll get to it as soon as I finish this document.” Be sure, however, to follow through on your stated commitment. Otherwise you risk getting into trouble with your boss.

Try going it alone.

Since many of us do our best work when we’re uninterrupted, make it a point to do your best work while you are alone. This is harder advice to follow, and it’s especially difficult in a busy office, corporate or otherwise. If you do have the flexibility to work on your own, perhaps by choosing different hours or working at an alternate location for certain projects, I encourage you to do so. When you’re more in control of where and when you work, you’re abler to go with the flow when you’re in the middle of it.

Commit to the moment.

Be in the moment. Instead of allowing thoughts of what you must do next, where you’re going for lunch, or replaying that argument you had last night with your spouse or partner or one of the kids, commit to being here and now. You’re busy working on something. That needs to take priority. You can devote time to those other items later, most likely with better clarity and attention, not to mention effectiveness. Keep in mind that when that time comes, be in the moment then as well for best results.

Eliminate distractions.

If you want to get things done, help yourself out by turning off the notification sounds and pop-ups for email on your computer. You don’t need to be a slave to these distractions. Even better, close out your email client until you’re finished with what you’re doing. Better yet, set specific times to check email, such as 9 a.m., right after lunch, 3 p.m. – and don’t be tempted to check it otherwise unless you’re expecting something to help you complete your current assignment.

Go quiet.

The adage that “silence is golden” is very apropos here. So, silence your phone. Similarly, avoid the temptation to pick up and answer or respond to texts that come in by shutting off your phone. At the very least, silence it. Your productivity will improve and so will your ability to let it flow. In fact, regularly disconnecting will also help reduce information overload.

If you need any more encouragement to let it flow, simply recall how good it felt in the past to be swept up in an activity or project so that the time just flew. That was being in the moment, fully immersed in what you were doing. Like the swiftly moving river, you just let it flow. You can do this.

 

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

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10 Ways to Enjoy a Stress-Free Holiday

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

If hearing “Jingle Bells” or “White Christmas” fills you with dread over last-minute shopping, decorating, meal preparations and more, your stress quotient is probably at the max. You can, however, take proactive steps to make this holiday season much more enjoyable. Here are 10 tips that can likely help.

Forget About Doing It All

Why feel you must be SuperMom or SuperDad or SuperAnyone this year? So, what if some things just don’t get done? Will it be cataclysmic? Will you really care a year from now or even next month? The remedy here is to pare your to-do list to the essentials. Wrap presents. Figure out a welcoming menu and one that’s less hassle to prepare. Invite only those you enjoy being with and don’t worry about being the “perfect host.” You can have a peaceful holiday without overwhelming yourself to tick off everything you thought you must do.

Enlist Help to Get Things Done

Why should you be the only one slaving away in the kitchen? It doesn’t matter if your teenage daughter (or grown son or daughter, for that matter) is engrossed in posting to social media or chatting/texting with friends, ask for their assistance with getting the meal together – or cleaning up afterward. The old saying, “Many hands make light work” is completely appropriate. Their help means less stress for you and time for everyone to celebrate being together when tasks are out of the way.

Make Sure You Take Time to Relax

An often-overlooked tip for making holidays less stressful is to pencil in time to relax. Whether it’s listening to music, taking a walk outside, diving into a book, watching old movies on TV or getting a massage, you deserve to make use of ways to relax that work for you. Don’t ever feel guilty for doing so, either. The fact is that you’re much more fun to be with when you’ve ratcheted down your stress level.

Tickle Your Funny Bone

Laughter is a great stress reducer. Along with smiling, laughter sends a signal to your brain that things are just fine. Stress tamps down, considerably. When others tell a funny joke, show your appreciation with laughter. Find some PG-13 jokes you can share as well by doing an online search. Post a funny saying, joke or cartoon or hang a printed version on the bulletin board.

Take Loving Care of Yourself

You won’t be your best version of yourself if you’ve deprived yourself of sleep, indulged too much in food or drink, or got yourself all whacked out by accepting too many social engagements. Strive for moderation. Good self-care will pay off handsomely with decreased stress all through the holiday.

Give What You Can – Not More Than You Can Afford

Too many times we find ourselves spending more for gifts than we can reasonably afford. No matter how much a grandchild begs for the high-priced electronic or software tech or how much you’d love to get that diamond watch or necklace for your loved one, it’s the sentiment behind your gift that matters most. At least, it should be your primary consideration. If the recipient casts a dim eye toward your gift, that’s their problem. Avoid the stress, headache and pain in the wallet that you know will come when the bills are due by only giving what you can afford. A corollary to this is to use what you know about the intended recipient’s likes and wants to opt for a thoughtful gift.

Put Some Organization into Your Holiday

Instead of reacting to whatever’s happening on any given day this holiday season, it’s better to begin with a plan. Know ahead of time what’s essential to tackle today. Get some of the more time-consuming or difficult tasks out of the way early. That way, you’ll have a big load of stress removed and will feel better about the remaining items on your must-do list.

Wake with a Profound Sense of Gratitude

The best way to prepare yourself for a stress-free day is to greet each day with a deep and reverent sense of gratitude. Say a prayer to your Higher Power. Meditate for a few minutes upon getting up. Take a few moments to be thankful for all that you have and loved ones and friends to share these special days with. Be hopeful about the future.

Practice Releasing Tension with Deep Breaths

An effective technique for ditching tension and underlying stress is to take a few deep breaths at the first sign of these negative physical and mental reactions to what’s going on around you – or within you. Consciously release any thoughts, frustrations or emotions that cause you dismay.

Keep Others in the Loop

When you start to feel stressed or overwhelmed, instead of suffering in silence and allowing the situation to escalate to a point where you explode, confide in loved ones, family members, a trusted friend, your therapist or a support group. Experts say that talking about the stress you are experiencing helps defuse it. It also helps to know that you’re not alone and that others are there to support you through this time.

 

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Related posts:

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Self-Care: The Most Important Person to Take Care of is You

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Want to get my free newsletter? Sign up here to receive uplifting messages and daily positive quotes in my Daily Thoughts. You’ll also get the top self-help articles and stories of the week from my blog and more.

 

 

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10 Ways to Express Gratitude

 

Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

Photo by Jake Thacker on Unsplash

“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” – Henry Ward Beecher

 

Philosophers and poets have long praised gratitude as one of the most desirable attitudes. Surely, each of us has much to be thankful for. Why not express our gratitude? It costs us nothing, yet yields countless benefits. Looking for ways to show and acknowledge gratitude? Here are 10 to try that are simple, quick and easy.

Say a kind word.

The quickest, simplest and easiest way to demonstrate gratitude is to say thanks to another. If you don’t have a specific item to express thanks for, saying a few kind words is just as effective. Kind words earnestly spoken are like healing balm to a troubled soul. They work equally well for those who are stressed, feel unappreciated, are lonely, ill, tired or just a bit anxious or depressed. Besides, don’t you feel a little better when someone has a kind thing to say to you?

Include others in your plans.

Chances are you know someone who’s alone or lonely, maybe just someone who could use some time away from being a caregiver for a loved one. What extra would it take for you to invite that individual to accompany you on an outing, to share a coffee or beverage at a nearby restaurant, take in a movie, or go for a walk? When you include others in your plans, it lets them know you’re thinking about them and value their friendship. It’s also an effortless way to express your gratitude.

Listen intently.

I know I’m guilty of sometimes thinking so hard about what I’m about to say next that I fail to grasp the essence of what another person is saying. That’s a common trait that can be corrected, although it takes effort and practice. When I stop editing my next comments and listen actively and intently to the other person, and show by my body language that I’m in the moment in their conversation, it shows I respect and appreciate them. This is a lesson each of us must learn.

Bring over lunch.

Preparing meals, especially if you’re overworked and chronically stressed, is often akin to a dreaded chore. Don’t you know someone who’d be delighted if you’d surprise them with a tasty lunch? Maybe it’s a neighbor, a co-worker, a friend or loved one who could use a little lift that you can easily bring with an inexpensive lunch. What a wonderful way to show your gratitude for all this person means to you.

Pay an impromptu visit.

How often have you heard others welcome you to drop by and pay them a visit? If the comment is genuinely expressed, pay heed. This is a subtle invitation to spend some time with that individual. They’re asking you to come over. When you do, even if it’s a quick visit on your home from work or church or shopping, it lets that person know you care – and listened to their previous offer.

Email to check in.

If you’re busy and can’t take the time for an in-person visit, there’s always email. Dash off a thoughtfully worded communication to let another person know he or she is in your thoughts. Add some entertaining or informative items to round out the note.

Call to say hello.

I love to hear a loved one’s voice on the phone. It’s much more personal than an email, although it doesn’t take the place of a physical visit. You’d be surprised how satisfying a call can be. It is a quickly-handled way to say hello – and will be much appreciated by the recipient. Even if you both are short on time, the exchange of pleasantries stimulates a sense of well-being.

Ask if there’s anything you can do.

Like most people, I don’t like having to ask others for help. That’s something that was instilled in me as a child, to be self-sufficient and do things for myself. Sometimes, however, it’s easy to become overwhelmed with all the things on your to-do list. Since we all feel this way, put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Ask if there’s anything you can do to help – and mean to follow up on your offer if it’s accepted.

Pick flowers from your garden and deliver to a friend.

A bright bouquet of flowers is a cheery way to express your gratitude. They don’t call them “Thank You” bouquets for nothing. Yet, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to show someone how much you appreciate them. Pick some blooms from your garden and take them to a deserving friend. Their smile of appreciation will say it all.

Offer to do an errand, help with chores.

When I was raising my children, there never seemed to be enough time to get everything done. Laundry, preparing school lunches, setting out clothes for them to wear the next day, making sure their homework was done and many more parental responsibilities ate up whatever spare time I had. I would have loved to take a friend up on an offer to run an errand for me, or to help me sort laundry or clean cluttered kids’ bedrooms. Sadly, I didn’t have anyone around to help, although I’m keenly aware of how much appreciated such assistance would be to an overworked mom. For that reason, if I have an opportunity today, I offer to help someone else that I care about. It doesn’t have to be housework, either. Helping a co-worker with a project, volunteering, taking a family member’s kids to the park all count, too.

In addition to expressing your gratitude and making someone else feel better, you’re likewise reaping benefits from your words and actions. Consider gratitude a virtue, for it’s a trait unique to our species.

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This article was originally published on Psych Central.

Related posts:
10 Soothing Thoughts on What Hope Is

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