The holidays are a time when giving thanks is more abundant. We gather together to share food and exchange gifts. However, what if gratitude was an everyday experience?
There are many ways you can express gratitude. Practicing gratitude is one of the fastest ways to shift one’s mood, thoughts and results from whatever is not wanted to what is desired. If one has the desire to master a particular behavior such as gratitude, it takes practice. This article gives some ways to begin, how to practice and offers up possibilities of your life changing for the better, all from the simple and always available gratitude practice.
When to start a gratitude practice
It’s always best to start practicing gratitude when your energy level is neutral or higher. When you are happy, at peace or feeling love it is much easier to “count your blessings”. If you’re feeling blue or complaining about what you don’t have, it will be much easier to turn that perspective around when gratitude is already familiar to you. Therefore, use the good times to build your practice, so you can rely on this when you may need it most.
Start wherever you are now and continue to evolve. This is the formula for any self-improvement journey. Although you can become an avid appreciator, daily awareness, attention and rituals will keep this virtue going strong. Every day is a new start, so start now. If you already feel gratitude often, read further on how you can deepen or enrich your practice.
How can you practice gratitude?
Start with an existing daily activity, such as waking up, brushing your teeth, walking to your vehicle, drinking a favorite beverage or eating a meal. Each day choose one routine activity and for one-minute focus on everything you appreciate about this. Here is a gratitude example, as I’m eating a meal, I can be thankful for the food that nourishes my body, for the various smells, colors, temperature and textures of the food. I can be grateful for all the people that grew the food, harvested it, and transported it to the market. I can acknowledge all of the people who stocked the grocery store shelves, the cashier who assisted me in my purchase and that I have resources to buy my food. I can be grateful to everyone involved in preparing my meal, myself included. If this didn’t take up a minute, I could extend my appreciation to the soil, rain, sun and miracle of a seed that made this meal possible. Many of us take our daily experiences for granted. In beginning a gratitude practice, it’s easiest to start when you appreciate what you have or are already doing.
Why is gratitude important?
There are 4 scientifically proven benefits of being grateful.
- Relationships – People are more likely to reciprocate acts of appreciation and acknowledgment when you display these genuine gestures according to Positive Psychology March 2020 leading to friendships and healthier relationships.
- Physical Health – Gratitude improves physical health according to slew of studies over the past 20 years, one being GGSC at UC Berkeley, 2018. Research shows a correlation of gratitude and having a stronger cardiovascular system, reporting fewer aches and pains and better sleep. It is also noted that people who have feelings of appreciation and happiness engage in other lifestyle behaviors like eating well and exercising in ways that are fun.
- Mental Health – A study from Nationwide Childrens May 2020 states: People who regularly express gratitude for the positive things in their life are shown to be happier overall, leading to lower rates of stress and depression. Expressing gratitude can improve your mood and showing gratitude can make you more optimistic. Not only does gratitude reduce stress, it may also play a major role in overcoming trauma.
- Emotional Well-being – Researcher Robert Emmons, PhD, has extensively studied the link between gratitude and well-being. He has found that gratitude can reduce negative emotions such as envy, resentment and frustration. Study participants who ranked higher on gratitude scales were found to be more empathetic toward others and had higher self-esteem. Grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s successes.
Besides enormous benefits, cultivating a gratitude practice doesn’t take much time or cost any money.
How to be grateful when times are difficult?
“When it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” – G.K. Chesterton
Studies have shown that whatever we focus on expands. Therefore, when we focus on lack our attention goes to what we don’t have. When we focus on abundance, we notice more of what we have. “Both abundance and lack exist simultaneously, as parallel realities”, states Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of the mid-90’s best seller, Simple Abundance. Breathnach goes on to say that abundance is not only in the things we possess, but in our relationships, work, personal pursuits, nature, health and love. When we choose to revel in all that we have, our minds and energy follow along.
Gratitude can change challenging situations or difficult times into a positive one. It’s easy to be thankful for good things, yet mistakes teach us valuable lessons, limitations are opportunities for improvement, and if we don’t have everything we desire, it could mean there is something to look forward to. Having a daily gratitude practice can shift your mind from the negative to the positive, and offer you a deeper feeling of joy, as well as acknowledging the evidence of more good coming into your life.
Gratitude Day Activities for New Possibilities
Each night before going to sleep, spend 15 minutes writing down all that you’re grateful for. You may have to dig deep but keep exploring. Then notice how you feel. Keep this practice going every night for at least 40 days. It is said in yoga traditions that it takes 40 continuous days to rewire a habit. Take it further and continue for 90 continuous days to establish the new habit of daily journaling which affects your conscious and subconscious mind, attitude and behaviors, opening your life to new and better possibilities.
“You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” coined by Jim Rohn applies to the power of gratitude. Therefore, surround yourself with others who practice gratitude and be a model of thankfulness as well. Before any of us could walk, we began to crawl. We also watched others walking, which gave us further desire and modeling to achieve standing on two feet and moving forward. Throughout our lives we have received help and have helped others. Sharing and showing appreciation is a powerful act which uplifts others and one’s self.
Inspirational quotes to keep you going
Whether you are a thankfulness newbie or a gratitude guru, everyone can use a little pick-me-up. This article also includes some of favorite go-to quotes to keep a high vibe and remember what life is all about. I hope they help you to remember your blessings too.
“A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all the other virtues.” —Cicero
“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy
“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.” – Zig Ziglar
“When things go wrong, take a moment to be thankful for the many things that are going right.” – tinybuddha
“Thank you” – Barbara Badolati
Barbara Badolati, founder of BeWell Retreats has been a key player in the evolution of wellness since 1986. Her dedication to this field has included creating corporate wellness cultures, opening several yoga studios, providing health and life coaching for individuals, and leading worldwide retreats. The foundation of her work is to empower the individual toward greater health and well-being through lifestyle, mindset, movement and meditation. You can experience all of this and more through her virtual retreats and classes at BeWellRetreats.com
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