Healthy Holidays Challenge: Practice Gratitude

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

That warm feeling you get by saying thanks on Thanksgiving is actually good for your health. Here’s how to make gratitude a daily habit.

How to Start a Gratitude Practice

The holidays have a way of throwing even the most dedicated health enthusiast off their game. Not this year! All month long, follow along as SilverSneakers LIVE trainer Shannon Thigpen unwraps our best tips for staying healthy, happy, and, yes, even calm during this busy time of year. Check in here and on our Facebook page for new activities to try. Here’s to your healthiest, happiest holiday season ever!

Thanksgiving is a natural time to count your blessings. But if you’re reserving your thanks for this one special day, you’re missing out on some powerful health benefits of gratitude.

“A simple daily gratitude practice creates an instant mood boost and can help you feel more fulfilled,” Michelle Gielan, author of Broadcasting Happiness: The Science of Igniting and Sustaining Positive Change. 

Emotional well-being and fitness go together! With SilverSneakers, you can choose from dozens of different Community classes, visit a participating fitness location, or join one of 20+ SilverSneakers LIVE online classes. Check your eligibility here.   

The Health Benefits of Gratitude

More than fostering a warm feeling, science shows that taking time to acknowledge and appreciate what’s good in your life can help improve your mental and physical health. A 2016 study published in the Journal of Health Psychology, for example, found that people who practiced gratitude for just two weeks lowered their blood pressure compared to those who didn’t. 

A regular gratitude practice may even modestly lessen symptoms of anxiety and depression, suggests a 2020 review of studies by Ohio State University researchers. 

Researchers aren’t exactly sure how practicing gratitude physically impacts the body, but many factors are likely at play. Just as high levels of stress can trigger a nervous stomach or a headache, says Gielan, focusing on the positives in your life can help you feel relaxed and settled.

How to Start a Gratitude Practice

Counting blessings doesn’t come easily for everyone. Gielan suggests asking yourself: What are three things that I feel grateful for today? What three things do I appreciate most about myself? 

Feeling stuck? Here are some thought starters: 

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  • Did I have a nice surprise today?
  • Did someone do something nice for me this week? (Or did I do something nice for someone?)
  • What personality traits am I most thankful for?
  • What always puts a smile on my face?

Bonus Challenge: Try a SilverSneakers EnerChi Class

In this 45-minute class, you’ll perform modified tai chi movements in a slow, flowing sequence to help improve your balance and your focus. A chair is used for support, if needed. EnerChi is offered both in-person at participating fitness locations (check the gym schedule for exact times) and online through SilverSneakers LIVE. View the schedule and RSVP here.

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