Gratitude is a Gift

Gratitude is a Gift

11/20/18 Laura Gibbons

When we think of Thanksgiving, we think of gratitude. Some may sit around the Thanksgiving table with family and friends sharing something for which they are thankful. However, being grateful should not be just a holiday occasion, but part of our daily practice. Research shows that practicing gratitude has a positive impact on one’s physical and mental health.

Think about it. When you practice something regularly, you get better at it. It is the same thing with gratitude. If you spend more time focusing on the positive – rather than dwelling on the negative – your perspective changes. And even more exciting, your brain can actually change.

There is something called neuroplasticity which refers to the brain’s ability to change and adapt as a result of experience. When you do something repeatedly like practicing gratitude, you actually can rewire the brain so that gratitude becomes more automatic creating positive circuitry in the brain. And with more gratitude, you will naturally feel happier, more positive, and more resilient rather than defaulting to unhealthy habits or negative thinking.

How do you find gratitude?
Gratitude can be found in the smallest of things or things you may take for granted. The sun is shining. Someone made you smile or you gave someone else a smile. You have a roof over your head. You drove home safely. You had 3-square meals. You had a productive day at work. Your partner or kids had a good day. Don’t overlook or underestimate the small things – here is nothing too small for which to be grateful.

What if you feel challenged?
An element of being positive is seeing the opportunities even in challenges or failures. There are lessons learned and new doors that may open. People who have an all-or-nothing or catastrophic thinking are more likely to default to a defeated position. If you can see something good even from a situation that appears negative, you will have more motivation to move through it and not miss something good around the corner. You also may feel grateful that you can get through hard times, which makes us feel more resilient.

How does mindfulness help with gratitude?
Mindfulness is not just a buzz word, but has research behind in. Practicing mindfulness meditation can help reduce anxiety, depressions, stress, and other negative emotions. Mindfulness is essentially being present in the moment, awareness of one’s experience, without judgment. When you are present, you are less likely to dwell on the past or worry about the future. Mindfulness practice can help one move to more gratitude.

Write it down: Make a gratitude journal or calendar
There are ways to help promote the practice of gratitude. One is starting a gratitude journal. First, buy yourself a nice journal to get you excited about starting a new practice or just grab a notebook you have nearby. Second, determine a time you can dedicate to journaling. This will help create a new habit. Putting pen to paper will help you focus on gratitude even when you may not feel like it by setting aside thoughts that may be intruding and getting in the way of wanting to practice gratitude. The journal is also a great way to look back at the positive moments you wrote down and serves as a great reminder when you may need it most. You can also create a calendar with themes each day that you want to reflect on in gratitude.

Help others
We can often get wrapped up in the things that may not seem to be going right or things that we overvalue when it comes to happiness. When we take things for granted, forget the plight of others, or forget how good it feels to help others, we miss an important lesson in gratitude. Helping others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves, can help us feel more grateful.

Take the challenge. Practice daily gratitude for at least 21 days. See how you feel. If may feel so good that you will make this part of your daily routine.

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