Brenda Lyle – Florida Today

Q: What does it mean to practice gratitude?

A: Happy National Gratitude Month! It’s November, when many people reflect on what they are grateful for in their lives. Of course, Thanksgiving and the holidays are a great for this, but you might not know that practicing gratitude for things (big and small) will benefit you all year long.

Research has shown that practicing gratitude can reduce anxiety and stress. A recent study conducted by the University of California, Berkeley, found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. In fact, a single act of thoughtful gratitude can increase happiness by 10% and reduce depressive symptoms by 35%. Writer/researchers like Jeremy Smith, author of “The Gratitude Project” have published books on how gratitude and optimism can “rewire your brain” and lead to a happier, healthier lifestyle.

Gratitude is also an important “protective factor.” The Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) curriculum defines a protective factor as “something that decreases the chances of a person being adversely affected by a circumstance or disorder. This protection can help in a variety of circumstances, including depression and anxiety.”

You can begin to practice gratitude this moment –by making a list of what you are thankful for. Your list might include your spouse, family –all kinds of things. Try to think of at least 10 things. Writing these down or saying them aloud can help you stay positive even during difficult times. Express gratitude when you have the financial means to pay your rent every month, or you have the physical ability to walk for 15 minutes. Be thankful for a coworker that makes your work environment a better place. Your favorite movie is on tonight –Yay! Unsure of an outcome? Expect good things to happen!

Practicing gratitude includes being thankful for the small things. Of course we all celebrate the big accomplishments — a new job, getting married, buying a house, etc. While these important milestones are certainly worthy of celebration, life’s little moments are just as important. Maybe you’re grateful for the bird making the nest right outside your window, trying (and liking!) a healthy new food, the smile of your favorite Publix cashier, or checking off another day of your stop smoking plan. As you become comfortable with expressing gratitude, you’ll gain confidence in your ability to exert a positive influence over outcomes in your life.

You might even start your own gratitude journal. Think of it as a diary for life’s good stuff. Still not sold? Check out “The Gratitude Project” from your local library. You’ll be grateful you did!

One Senior Place is a marketplace for resources and provider of information, advice, care and on-site services for seniors and their families. Questions for this column are answered by professionals in nursing, social work, care management and in-home care. Send questions to, call 321-751-6771 or visit One Senior Place, The Experts in Aging.

Brenda Lyle is a Certified Care Manager and Certified Dementia Practitioner with One Senior Place, Greater Orlando.