Gratitude… so much more than a simple cursory thank you. In its simplest form, it is taking time to think of the positive things and appreciate them. The dictionary defines it as the quality of being thankful/ readiness to show appreciation for and return kindness – to which I would add, to yourself and to others.
Gratitude begins with ourselves. Am I thankful for who I am, do I appreciate my body and what it does for me, can I see the good qualities I have, do I recognize my strengths, do I appreciate what I can accomplish and how I can positively impact others?
When gratitude happens within we can then more readily, and with more honesty, be grateful for what is outside of us – from nature to technology, and especially those people around us.
Several studies have been done showing the power of gratitude, and 5min a day focused on gratitude can increase your wellbeing by 10%. That’s pretty awesome. One 10 week study shoed that those who practiced gratitude were more optimistic, felt better about their life, exercised more and had less visits to the doctor.
But why? Simply put, gratitude is a positive emotion, and every time we focus on positive emotions we reduce negative emotions, these two don’t coexist. While you can find the good and bad in many things, you can’t feel grateful and frustrated at the same time. Same goes for belief and discouragement, for instance. Focusing on the good will change how you react in the moment, how you feel about yourself and others.
Does gratitude discount that life is hard and sucks sometimes? Does it discount that real pain and suffering and problems happen? Is it naive and foolish?
Gratitude doesn’t change the hard, it changes our perspective and reactions. Any positive emotion we choose over a negative ones gives us more freedom and a better take on life.
The power of choosing positive emotions like gratitude is that you can hold positive space for the emotions of others and change the entire feeling of a moment. Try it with kids, for instance. When a child is having a meltdown, if the parent starts expressing anger, disappointment, frustration, blame… the child will only feel worse, and behave poorly again and again. If the parent can hold on to emotions of calm, optimism, empathy… the child’s emotions will calm as well. It’s pretty cool to experience this, and it is fascinating that the emotions we choose to hold on to influence the people around us.
you can hold positive space for the emotions of others
So maybe you’re wondering how you can do this… how can you practice gratitude, tap in to positive emotions and hold space for people to find their positive emotions around you.
First of all remember that all benefits for any health and mental practice take time. You will not take a moment to appreciate your life in the morning and have everything be easier during that day. It is a practice, not a magic formula.
Here are some practical ways to include gratitude in your every day…
Journaling has many benefits, and writing down things you are thankful for, taking the time to put pen to paper gives you some extra minutes to purposefully focus on gratitude
- Make a recurring note on your phone
This is my go to. I have a note on my google keep app that I write something fun, good or memorable about that day with the date. Every once in a while I go back to it and it’s so fun to see the year at a glance, with small special things that happened every day.
Meditation is an ancient practice of focussing your mind on a thought or process. I like to meditate on a bible verse, and there are several great resources for any form of meditation that you enjoy.
- Deep breathing + gratitude
Deep breathing is not only a calming technique, it has mental and physical benefits as well. One thing I like to do, that takes less than a minute, is, before I get out of bed, before I reach for my phone, before I open my eyes… I take 4 deep breaths (4 count inhale and 4 count exhale) and think of 2 things I’m grateful for at that moment. I love this because it sets me up for a more positive day from the get go.
- Thank someone
This one is so easily overlooked… but so simple. Say thank you. Mail a card, send a text, write an email, make a phone call, give a gift… anything that expresses gratitude. This one is so so powerful.
If you had a magic pill that could improve your wellbeing, and have no side effects, would you take it? Yeah, me too. Gratitude is as close to that as you can get.
Keeping it simple,