Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual
receives, whether tangible or intangible. In the process, people
usually recognize that the source of that goodness lies at
least partially outside themselves. As a result, gratitude also
helps people connect to something larger than themselves as
individuals – whether other people, nature, or a higher power.
Gratitude has the power to heal and to improve physical health. It can
make people happier, improve relationships, lessen depression, and even
In several recent studies, organizations have proven a link between
health and a gratitude practice, especially in older adults. People of
all ages and nationalities who practice gratitude report fewer health
complaints (including headaches, gastrointestinal issues, blood pressure,
respiratory infections, sleep disturbances, and colds) than their less
One study found that a regular gratitude practice decreased the
production of cortisol, which in turn lowered blood pressure. The
participants had an average heart rate significantly lower than the group
that didn’t practice gratitude. Helping seniors establish regular gratitude
patterns might diminish feelings of stress about aging and replace them
with a more relaxed and content demeanor.
In any of these ideas for expressing gratitude, the goal is to make it a regular
part of every day – something that comes naturally, even when times are hard.
It’s a habit that can switch the brain from saying “everything is horrible” to “I’m
grateful for this specific thing in my life when other things are going wrong.”
Keep a Gratitude Journal – Write down 3–5 things each day
that are blessings to you. By keeping a journal, you can easily
see the positives in your days and ensure those good things
continue to happen. If you’re helping a parent or loved one
who finds writing difficult, consider encouraging them to record
a short video each day about what they are grateful for. You can watch
them together, which will remind them of their positives, as well as
Write a Thank You Note – This practice helps both the giver and
the receiver. Occasionally write one to yourself. As a caretaker,
you deserve gratitude. Perhaps your loved one is not able to
thank you themselves, but that does not mean that the intention
isn’t there and that you can’t thank yourself on their behalf.
Thank Someone Mentally – Often just thinking in a grateful
way about someone can soften a relationship and bring healing
to your own thoughts.
Pray – While prayer may not be for everyone, it is a specific way
for believers to express their gratitude to a higher power. Praying
with your loved one can be a profound connection.
Use Gratitude Cues – Keep photos out that remind you and
your loved one of things that make them happy. Gratitude
quotes are also good for reminding everyone to stay positive.
Make a Gratitude Jar – As people come up with something to
feel grateful for, they write it down and put the paper in the jar
(with or without their name). During family meals or together
time, pull notes from the jar to read aloud. This is a beneficial
activity if your older family members suffer from dementia as
they might not be able to participate in writing the grateful notes,
but can benefit from hearing them read aloud.
Source: Harvard Medical School and Greater Good Science Center – UC Berkeley