There is a direct and known correlation between practicing gratitude and increased happiness, as well as health improvement; this can be especially true and important for the elderly. It’s not always easy to be grateful, especially in challenging times, but learning to see the good in even the smallest circumstances can have a profound impact on the lives of seniors. While aging is inevitable, feelings of sadness and distress do not need to be part of the process.
Remaining present and noticing all that we have to be thankful for can make it easier to cope when confronted with challenging moments. No matter your current circumstance, whether you’re aging in place or in an assisted living facility, there are small ways to be grateful that will have a big impact on your daily life as well as your relationship with others.
The easiest way to cultivate gratitude is by putting pen to paper. An even easier way to begin is by creating a list. The goal of a gratitude list is to focus on the positive things in your life. A gratitude list can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. For example, ‘The sun came out today’ or ‘My doctor appointment went better than expected.’
Gratitude lists aren’t meant to be difficult, but instead something you look forward to doing so it eventually becomes habitual. You don’t need to write an exhaustive list on your first try. Begin with one to five things and see what happens from there. Some days you may have more to write than others, and as you continue writing these lists, you will begin to see some of the amazing benefits: physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Seniors who practice gratitude will notice an improvement in their health. Because gratitude is one of the most powerful tools to increase joy and happiness, it also lowers blood pressure and heart rate as well as reduces headaches, eases pain, and improves sleep. Grateful seniors are also more likely to exercise and choose healthier foods, which also leads to a well-balanced lifestyle.
The physical changes that come with aging can bring lower self-esteem to seniors as they notice their body doesn’t feel, function, or look the way it once did. By practicing gratitude, seniors are reminded that no matter what physical changes have come their way, there is still so much to be valued.
Grateful people are more likely to recall past experiences positively. Remembering the good times makes you better equipped to handle the difficult times that may come your way. Start the day by recalling the events that happened the day before to keep a good memory, and come up with five to ten things you were grateful for that happened yesterday.
Those who have a habit of being grateful look for the good in others. This makes people more enjoyable to be around, which in turn means family and friend connections are likely to be stronger. A senior who is connected socially will feel less lonely and isolated.
It’s important that the close family members of seniors celebrate their loved ones. Aging can be challenging, but it can also be a great time in life, provided we have the tools to navigate through those challenges. As close family members commit to helping your elderly ones focus on what there is to be grateful for. By doing this you are benefiting them and your relationship with them.
Make it a Routine
It’s thoughtful to give our loved ones something to look forward to, so by offering to help practice gratitude, make sure it’s a commitment you can keep. If it’s a daily phone call to go over the gratitude list or a weekly lunch date, make sure you have an established routine. Gratitude is a great tool that can make a huge difference in the quality of life for seniors, so develop a proactive approach with your loved ones.
Find the positive in a challenging circumstance
If you and your loved one are creating gratitude lists together, remember to help find the positive in any hard situation. Challenge your loved one to think about things differently, while also coming up with solutions instead of focusing on the problem. During this difficult time of the pandemic, it can be especially hard to feel grateful. Our senior loved ones may be feeling extra lonely given that many families have decided to forego the regular turkey day festivities. Remind your loved ones how fortunate we are to be living in an age of advanced technology that lets us video chat together.
Remember to say kind words to your loved ones and tell them why you are grateful for them. Celebrating their gifts and talents is a good way to keep them in high spirits.
Gratitude lists are a great way to physically see all of our small and big accomplishments that go on throughout our day that might otherwise go unnoticed. By bringing gratitude into your daily routine, and focusing on what you have instead of the things you don’t, you’ll be giving yourself the powerful tools needed to live a long, healthy life.