The word “Gratitude” refers to the quality of being thankful, showing appreciation and returning kindness for both the tangible and intangible.
Having a regular gratitude practice can provide a simple platform for one to reflect upon all aspects of life. It enables us to see more than what’s simply in front of us which builds feelings of abundance and when expressed outwardly it cultivates feelings of connection not just with family, friends and community but with nature and our life as a whole.
Expressing gratitude and thanks isn’t just good manners, according to science it actually improves our health and wellbeing too. Fascinatingly this simple practice changes the neural structures in the brain and triggers the release of feel good hormones such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine which improves mood, self-esteem, immune function, cardiovascular health, recovery after sickness and surgery, improves relationships and sleep quality. It also reduces worry, anxiety, stress, depression, regret, shame, envy, aggression and even pain!
Having an attitude of gratitude can be used as an adaptive coping technique to encourage kindness, empathy, acceptance, forgiveness and problem solving skills allowing us to move through adversity and build resilience by helping us to see our struggles and obstacles as opportunities for growth and development. Psychiatrist, Author and holocaust survivor Victor Franks wrote about how he used gratitude to deal with years of being held captive in a Nazi concentration camp in his book “Mans Search for Meaning”.
Ways introduce a regular practice into your life
• Make it easy and fun – in our house we share the best part of our day, the worst part of our day and what we are grateful for over dinner. It’s a beautiful way to connect in and ensure our kids have a regular opportunity to express themselves and be heard.
• Show affection, write a note, or call loved ones, if you can’t get a hold of them leave them a voicemail expressing your feelings for them – what a gift!
• Provide positive feedback either in person or online when you have a good customer experience
• Give compliments to those around you
• Create a gratitude accountability group where you each share something your grateful for each day
• Download an app onto your phone that gives you a reminder and a prompt, there are several available
• Make a gratitude jar that you can put hand written notes into (this is a great thing to open up and read through when you are having a bad day and need cheering up)
• Keep a journal and a nice pen next to your bed and write in it daily either before bed or when you wake.
I have found that the most important part of gratitude is in the detail! Simply listing out a whole bunch of things you’re grateful for, isn’t all that useful. What is transformative is the HOW and the WHY! Why does that person or thing make you feel grateful? How does it nourish you or make your life better? THAT is what creates real shifts in energy and emotion.
My favourite journal prompts;
What events have you participated in recently that you enjoyed and why?
Who are you most grateful for today and why?
What’s something in nature you’ve enjoyed lately and why?
What is a regular lifestyle activity you are doing at the moment and how does it positively impact your life?
What home comforts could you not live without and why?
What’s the best part about living where you do and why?
What achievements, abilities or habits can you be proud of? What positive traits and attributes do these things prove to you?
Was there something that challenged or triggered you today? What was the silver lining, blessing or lesson in this situation? What can you do now or do next time to improve?
How did you care for yourself today? How did you show yourself love and respect? How did it make you feel?
It is said that very little is needed to have a happy life, it’s all within us in the way we think. Energy flows where focus goes and when we practice gratitude as part of our daily life it has a powerful positive compounding effect on us.