2020 is perhaps the strangest year any of us have experienced. It’s been one of change, confusion, stillness and fear. As we move towards November, a time of thanksgiving, we are reminded once again of the power and importance of practicing thankfulness. Gratitude breeds further gratitude. It is contagious in the best possible way. For seniors, it provides even more benefits that you might not be aware of.

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Seniors can feel isolated and fall into anxiety and depression, so practicing gratitude can help to lift spirits and change perspective.

Being Grateful

Grateful people sleep better: In 2011, a study was done that showed taking 15 minutes before bed to write in a gratitude journal improved sleep. Sleep is how we restore and heal and a foundation of our health.

Grateful people have more positive relationships: The simple gesture of “thank you” goes a long way. Expressing gratitude to others is not only a kindness but a means of seeing someone and acknowledging their contributions. People are attracted to that and it opens doors for new and meaningful friendships.

Gratitude practice improves physical health: Aches and pains? Try working in gratitude practice to your daily routine. A study in 2012 found that grateful people experienced better overall health, were more likely to exercise and get regular check ups with their physician.

Grateful people experience better mental health: It makes sense that focusing on gratitude leads to diminishing toxic emotions. Those things have a hard time existing in the same space. People who regularly practice gratitude have less depression and increased happiness. Gratitude also increases empathy, reduces aggression and stress. In individuals who have suffered trauma, those who practiced gratitude experienced lower rates of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Gratitude is powerful. : Acknowledge that with aging comes change, loss and new challenges. Perhaps you’ve had to move from your family home or experienced the loss of a spouse. Focusing and shifting to an “attitude of gratitude” does not mean ignoring these truths. Cultivating this practice of gratitude allows you to better see and experience how beautiful all aspects of your life can be.

Creative Ways to Cultivate Gratitude for Seniors

  • Write a thank you note or email
  • Keep a candy or cookie jar. If someone would like a treat, ask them to share what they are grateful for.
  • Carry a gratitude reminder in your pocket. It can be as simple as a rock. When you touch the item, take a moment to ponder what you find yourself grateful for in that moment.
  • Smile! It raises your endorphins and is the best kind of contagious.
  • Compliment a stranger.
  • Start a gratitude journal.
  • Go through a photo album with the mindset of thankfulness.
  • Go for a walk outside. Be purposeful in seeking the beauty of the clouds, a flower, colors or the breeze.
  • Start a gratitude jar. Write what you are grateful for on a small piece of paper. This is a fun way to revisit and remind yourself of all that you are thankful for on those days where happiness is difficult to find.
  • Ask others to add to your thankfulness jar. Watch it overflow and enjoy the visual reminder.
  • Teach, share and model these practices to the younger generation. What you do now has a great impact on those around you. Share positive empotion with those around you and watch it spread.

If you have a loved one in assisted living during these trying times, be sure to stay in contact and keep the conversations going. Encourage them to tell you something they are grateful for – and let them know you are grateful for them as well.

A Banyan Residence in Venice is a professional assisted living and memory care facility dedicated to the comprehensive health and well-being of our residents.