Jancee Dunn is out this week. I’m Christina Caron, a reporter on the Well desk, filling in.

When I was growing up in California, far from my extended family, my brother and I always ended the Christmas season with thank you letters to our relatives. As an 8-year-old, I found the notes became much more than an obligatory acknowledgment of a doll or new piece of clothing: They were also a chance to share parts of my life with the aunts, uncles and grandparents I rarely saw.

Nowadays the practice of letter writing feels almost quaint, but when I examined the science behind gratitude in June, I learned that expressing it doesn’t need to be time-consuming. Even a short, thoughtful text can bolster our social connections.

Cultivating a grateful outlook, and taking a few minutes a day to count our blessings, can also reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety, increase self-esteem and improve life satisfaction.

As one expert put it: “Gratitude seems to be the gift that keeps on giving.”

In that spirit, we asked New York Times readers to tell us how they practice gratitude, and we received nearly 800 responses. Here are some of their strategies.

“My husband and I take turns telling each other three things we feel gratitude for on a daily basis,” said Jeanne Rogow, 63, who lives in Traverse City, Mich. “If we miss a day, I say it to myself before I fall asleep.”

Mitchell Shapiro, 69, of Fort Lee, N.J., said he thanks his wife whenever she cooks a meal. “She really does not like to cook,” he added. “I do the dishes. With gratitude.”

And William McDonnell, 75, who also lives in New Jersey, writes thank you notes to anyone who is pleasant and helpful. It could be a customer service representative at a store or a relative who spent time with him. “People are truly thankful when they are recognized and acknowledged for something positive they have done,” he said.

Several readers said that working out pairs nicely with gratitude exercises.

Deborah Rathbun, 66, from Sharon, Conn., goes on a walk several times a week, always focusing on the beauty that surrounds her: “the blue of the sky, the leafy green trees, how the flag is moving nobly in the breeze, a drizzle that’s badly needed for the gardens.”

Next, she reflects on the last 24 hours and thinks about the “very small things that went well or I’m pleased about.” It might be a friendly or funny exchange with a cashier or the thoughtful text she finally sent to a friend.

By the time she’s done with the walk, she said, her mind feels “soothed and clear.”

More than 100 respondents said that they use journals or apps like Day One, Gratitude Plus and Flavors of Gratefulness to keep track of the good things in their lives.

“The best thing my therapist taught me was to record my ‘win’ every day,” said Elizabeth Chan, 35, who lives in San Antonio. “Doing so helped me develop my optimism muscles, which had atrophied for decades.”

“I paint small watercolors and write a note on the reverse,” said Owen Harvey, 49, from Kingston, N.Y. Then he mails them to a friend or family member.

Mr. Harvey said the habit started during the most isolating moments of the pandemic.

“I felt social media lacked the intimacy of connection that I was missing,” he said. “It all felt too impersonal.”

“Every night, after I turn off the light and settle into a comfortable sleeping position, I acknowledge every person that I have encountered during the day, wishing them solace and thanking them for their presence in my day,” said Carol Magowan, 70, of Salisbury, Conn.

The list is so long, she added, she usually falls asleep before finishing.

“The benefit, besides falling into a deep rest, is a profound sense of connectivity to the human condition and my place in this world,” she said.

Louise Miller, 52, from Boston, said she writes her gratitude list in a journal and then texts the list to a group of friends who also share theirs. “They almost always include something that inspires more gratitude in me — it’s contagious!” she said.

Zach Ford, 33, a Brooklyn resident, said he has been following a near-daily gratitude practice since his first weeks of sobriety about six years ago. Each morning he shares his gratitude list in an email with a handful of others.

“In the early days of my sobriety, I didn’t feel like I had much to celebrate,” Mr. Ford said. “Beginning a practice of gratitude helped reframe things for me. Rather than focusing on the negative, or what wasn’t going well, I began to highlight the positive.”

“This doesn’t mean that I no longer feel pain or sadness,” he added, “but it has led to the ability to hold the good and bad simultaneously, and significant reductions in moments of hopelessness.”


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