Gratitude has infused modern culture. We don’t have to look far to find references to Gratitude Journals or Gratitude Lists. Our language, always a sign of our current and recent culture, is full of references to gratitude. “Thank your lucky stars”, “thank goodness …”, etc. Gratitude seeps into our consciousness in various ways.
While all of these actions are fabulous for raising our attitude they carry a risk at the same time.
It’s important to thank others and appreciate what we have. It’s crucial to be sincere.
Does it count if we complete gratitude exercises by going through the motions? How many times do obvious things show up on a list from a feeling that we should be grateful?
Writing rote lists isn’t even being honest. Perhaps you’ve heard a friend or colleague say something similar to “I know I shouldn’t complain. I have so much to be grateful for.” Perhaps you’ve even said or thought it yourself.
The fact is we all have countless things for which to be grateful. From the earth we walk on to the air we breathe.
That doesn’t remove the desires we have or the emotions we feel. They can all co-exist.
Gratitude is transformative on every level of the body and brain when sincere. Rather than dishonor it by giving it voice only without sincerity, let’s bring back the heart and brain expanding quality.
1. Connect with what truly matters to you (use your values).
Often examples of gratitude lists are filled with things for which others are grateful. Think about your values and what connects deeply with those. All the parts of life that connect with your values will be what brings you joy and therefore the most gratitude.
2. Define what those things are (your gratitude).
Yes, make that list. But make it personal and be sure it is in connection with your values.
3. Express it.
Write it down in a journal if you choose to or make a habit of mentally recalling ten things every night before you go to sleep, but do form a habit of intentionally recalling and expressing your reasons for gratitude. It changes your brain by forming new neural pathways.
Ready for bonus steps? Take it to the next level. Having connected with your values in step 1, if you aren’t able to proceed with step 2 because you are feeling a disconnect between a situation in your day and your values, stop. Consider the day and the situation.
Take the time to problem solve the situation, yes, but also to look for an opportunity within the situation for which you can be grateful. Look for the gift. For example, did slow traffic allow you to have a meaningful conversation with your passenger in the car or to hear a podcast you’d saved?
When you look for circumstances in which to retrain your brain to be grateful rather than stressed, you are reprogramming the way your brain operates, resulting in a calmer, happier way of life. By feeling more positive your outlook anticipates a better future outcome in response to general life and efforts, as well, rather than expecting a negative outcome.
The opportunities of thankfulness don’t have to be huge. Look for the small gifts, even the tiny openings – e.g., if the grocery store is sold out of your favorite ingredient, allow yourself to try another recipe. Don’t abandon the cart.
Benefits of Gratitude
The benefits of gratitude are both impressive and extensive. Ongoing research continues to show positive impact at physical, mental, emotional, and social levels. Neuroscience research reveals significant changes within the brain structure both when gratitude is expressed and
If you haven’t yet experienced the support within your personal alignment of gratitude, try it to conduct your own research. Research reinforces the experiential results that we have seen. Here’s a partial list of the impact gratitude has.
- it heightens our ability to appreciate positive experiences
- it increases our ability to cope with stress
- increases our resiliency with challenges
- strengthens social relationships
- greater life satisfaction
- results in more positive emotions
- better physical health
- stronger mental health
- stronger connections to others
- reduces aggression
- improves sleep
- enhances self-esteem
And these are only the positive impact achieved personally! When gratitude is expressed to others, the benefit extends even farther. It allows people to feel socially valued. The giving continues as those who receive are more motivated to extend themselves.
Happy Healthy Brain
Through the quality of neuroplasticity our brains have the ability to heal, grow, and change. Gratitude is a powerful tool in enabling that growth.
Positive thoughts activate the neurotransmitters of serotonin and dopamine that are responsible for helping us to just feel good and have that happy feeling. When we feel positive we’re more inclined to engage in positive activities as well.
Next time you consider saying “thank you” or appreciate someone or something, know how powerful those “simple” thoughts truly are. Remember to keep it real and true to yourself. Enjoy the results!
Want help establishing a genuine gratitude practice? I’d love to work with you. For more information how, read more here and reach out with any questions.