What are you grateful for in this moment? What do you appreciate more than anything right now? Maybe it’s for the food on your table, your family, friends or your health. Think about what you really value in your life right now.
This simple act of gratitude could actually make your brain and body happier and healthier!
More and more research is proving that something as simple and easy as giving thanks regularly can drastically improve our overall health and wellbeing!
Let me share with you how.
Firstly, what exactly is gratitude? To me, it is the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful. It’s a general state of thankfulness.
It doesn’t take big events or expensive objects to create gratitude. You can actually train yourself to constantly be grateful for the little things in life; it could be something as simple as the roof over your head, a smile from a stranger, your ability to take a deep breath, or feeling the warmth of the sun on your skin.
Dr. Robert Emmons- Professor of Psychology and leading Gratitude Researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and wellbeing. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. He elaborates on this through a three-pronged theory he calls the ARC Model, featured in his latest book The Little Book Of Gratitude.
A – Gratitude amplifies the good in our lives, that which we see in ourselves and in others.
R – It rescues, by offsetting the chronic negativity we encounter from within and without.
C – It connects us with each other, strengthening and solidifying relationships with friends, family, neighbors and co-workers.
So what is happening in your brain when you feel gratitude?
Let’s start with your hypothalamus. It’s the part of your brain that regulates a number of your bodily functions including your appetite, your sleep, your temperature, metabolism, growth etc.
When we experience feelings of gratitude (as well as when we perform acts of kindness), our brain is flooded with the chemicals dopamine & serotonin – the bliss chemicals! When we are truly grateful for something or someone, our brains reward us by giving us a natural ‘high’. Because this feeling is so good, we are motivated to feel it again and again and become more inclined to give thanks and do good for others more often.
Zig Ziglar says “Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions, the more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
Gratitude has been proven to reduce a multitude of toxic emotions ranging from envy to resentment, anger and regret and is extremely beneficial for your mental health.
It turns out, that gratitude also plays a major role in overcoming trauma. There was a 2006 study published in the Behaviors Of Research And Therapy, which found that Vietnam War veterans with higher levels of gratitude experienced lower rates of posttraumatic stress disorder.
And then finally, there is your self-esteem. Studies have shown that gratitude reduces social comparisons. So, rather than becoming resentful towards people who have more of something (which is the major factor in reducing self-esteem), grateful people are able to appreciate themselves more as well as other peoples’ accomplishments.
So, don your cape. Cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Use your Super Power!
It’s one of the simplest ways to boost your brain, improve your health, enhance your wellbeing, lift your spirits and leave a positive impact on the world at large!
PS- If you are unsure of how to get your gratitude practice started, check out our Blog “5 Ways To Cultivate A Gratitude Practice”
5 WAYS TO CULTIVATE A GRATITUDE PRACTICE
Gratitude unlocks the key to life! It turns what we have into enough. It turns a house into a home, a meal into a feast, a stranger into a friend.
Here are 5 things you can do today to help you cultivate your very own gratitude practice:
1 – Keep a daily gratitude journal.
Each day, write down three things that you are thankful for. That’s it. Three things. I recommend you do this first thing in the morning (this will help you set up your day for success), and before you go to bed at night (this will help you to fall asleep more easily and peacefully).
Something I have been doing personally for the past 4 years, is keep a Gratitude Jar. I write down anything good that happens on a little piece of paper (this can be something as small as watching a beautiful sunrise to as big as an over seas trip), and then fold it up and put it in the jar.
We have a tradition that on New Years Eve every year, my husband and I read out all the happy notes from the year just passed, and reminisce on all the good things we experienced (you will be amazed at how much you forget!).
As the jar fills, you’ll have a physical representation; something you can see and touch of all the many things you have to be grateful for. But you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to read your notes like we do. Any time where you feel like you are stressed or have anxiety, you can just reach into the jar and be reminded of something that you can appreciate in that moment.
2 –Make it a practice to tell someone you appreciate them
I once heard someone say that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. Set a reminder in your phone to tell someone you appreciate them; Call them, write them a love note, a text message/email. Give the gift of gratitude.
Make a practice with loved ones, share gratitude as a family, maybe at the dinner table or in meetings at work etc.. My husband & I made vows on our wedding day that we would not let each other go to sleep at night until we each expressed what we felt grateful for that day. Try it!
3- Compliment yourself.
It’s helpful to have a trigger like brushing your teeth (or something you do everyday), and while you are doing that, allow that to remind you to think of something you like about yourself. It can be something you did, something you accomplished, or something about yourself. Maybe it’s an inner characteristic that you really appreciate about yourself. It could be anything at all. But start to compliment yourself and notice how you feel. At first it might be really uncomfortable or hard to find something, but with practice it will train your brain to notice the good things about YOU (because there are so many!!).
4 – Practice Mindfulness.
If you’re always thinking about the next thing, always caught up in your to-do lists, it’s difficult to really appreciate the present. In order to be able to have gratitude, you must be present. So take a breath, and slow life down. Sometimes you have to slow down to be able to speed up.
Spend time in nature, away from devices, screens, distractions that can cause stress, that can tax your nerves or challenge your peace of mind. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
Remember, the more grateful you are the more present you become.
5 – Reduce judgments.
It’s that inner critic that keeps you from feeling gratitude.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed.”Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
Just remember you determine what things mean.
There’s another story that I really like that also fits in quite well here. It’s about a family with twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other felt it was too cold, if one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. They were opposite in every single way. One was an eternal optimist and felt gratitude. The other was doom and gloom – a total pessimist.
In an attempt to balance the twins extreme personalities, on their birthday, their father loaded the pessimists’ room with every imaginable shiney new toy and game, and he loaded the optimists’ room with nothing but a big a pile of horse manure. That night the father passed by the pessimists’ room and found him sitting amongst all the new gifts crying bitterly. When the father asked him why he was crying, the boy blurted out ‘my friends have better toys than this, I’ll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I need batteries and my toys will eventually get broken…’
Passing the optimist twins room the father found him dancing for joy in a pile of manure. He asked why he was so happy and to which the optimist twin replied ‘With all this manure there has to be a pony in here somewhere!’.
What’s the message here? The message is nothing is positive, nothing is negative, it’s thinking that makes it so, and gratitude is a state of mind. It is a state of heart. It is something that with practice, we can all cultivate!
The more you practice gratitude, the more aware you are of it, the more you and your brain can enjoy all the benefits!
So what do you have to be grateful for today?