Can expressing gratitude improve your mental and physical health? Yes, says the Mayo Clinic. Studies have shown that expressing gratitude is one way we can improve our health and the month of November is a great time to encourage your staff, members, and families to start new habits.

After fifteen years of research, Greater Good Magazine reports that gratitude is a key to psychological well-being. “Gratitude can be an incredibly powerful and invigorating experience,” says researcher Jeff Huffman. “There is growing evidence that gratitude not only brings good feelings, but it could also lead to better health.”

We’ve all experienced being the recipient of a positive gesture or kind words. Do you know why our mood can change instantly when we experience gratitude? Acknowledging and expressing gratitude daily can improve sleep and decrease depression, anxiety, and chronic pain.

Are you aware that November is National Gratitude Month? According to the National Council on Aging, “practicing gratitude in small ways reaps dividends over time. When people have higher levels of gratitude, they tend to be more socially connected, better able to handle stress, have lower levels of depression, and get better sleep.”

Modeling gratitude for your members and residents is an ideal way to get everyone on board the “Gratitude Train.” Here are ten ideas to help you get started.

  1. Using a whiteboard, chalkboard or poster, write, “What am I grateful for today?” Write down your answer, and as participants arrive, invite them to provide a response and write it on the board (or have them write their statement). 
  2. Use adult language associated with gratitude along with a smile on your face. “Thank you.” “I am so grateful for you.” “That was a kind thing you just did.” “I appreciate what you just said.”
  3. Consider adding a statement of gratitude to your daily calendar or schedule. Introduce the message each morning or before lunch.
  4. Include music and poetry as a way to express gratitude.
  5. Don’t complain. Turn every lemon into lemonade. Model gratitude.
  6. Start tracking ways that your organization expresses gratitude-perhaps it is through appreciation? Or perhaps it is through helping others?
  7. Brainstorm with the group the many ways that we can express gratitude. Write ideas on a whiteboard or flipchart and leave the list where everyone can see it and add new ideas.
  8. Write (or dictate) a gratitude letter or card for a special person.
  9. Create a “Gratitude Garden” or “Kindness Garden” (there is a free download on the EngAGE EnCOURAGE website on how to create a kindness garden with painted rocks.)
  10. Identify and reward participants, staff, or family members who express random acts of gratitude with a “gratitude certificate.”