Gratitude is the new buzz word these days… I have come across this principle on more than one occasion, whether it be my Live Happy magazine, or a spiritual exercise in an art class. Often we write a gratitude list on a blank sheet of paper, and then collage or draw over it, leaving the writing as a background for the art piece. So what’s the benefit of giving thanks and why is it so popular these days?
I had established a practice of gratitude several years ago when I felt out of touch with myself, like something was missing from my life. I needed a fresh perspective on how to find happiness in the small things, in the mundane. Now, on a daily basis, I give thanks for a minimum of 5 things upon waking and another 5 upon retiring for the evening. I give thanks for everything from my comfy mattress, to the crazy antics of the dog, to having spare change in my pocket to enjoy a Starbucks coffee. It has become a routine part of my day, and has served to greatly improve my outlook on my life. Something as simple as being grateful for the sunshine after a long stretch of rain, or one of Mom’s delicious and gourmet home cooked meal can provide me with the strength of spirit to continue my day with grace and happiness.
Some of the benefits of a gratitude practice are as follows:
- It helps keep our negativity in check. Gratitude can help us see the good in those nasty situations, and transform it into a positive. When we see a fresh perspective on a situation, it allows us to rise above the occasion and recognize that these foibles may be life learning experiences that serve to benefit us by looking past the bullshit and inevitably may show us the way to reach for the stars.
- Gratitude helps us to feel better. It may help us be in better shape mentally. A gratitude practice helps to reduce stress and helps us to find more joy in our lives. It may increase our resilience and leave us with more optimism, and life satisfaction. We may even balance out our ratio of negative to positive emotions. On a physical basis, it may provide increased energy and a stronger immune system, or result in better sleep.
- Giving thanks is connected to greater levels of joy and gladness – if helps lift our spirits and gives us something to hold onto in times of distress. One of the benefits of gratitude is that it may lead to a connection with life that makes our hearts sing and helps us live a purpose filled life, where we feel unity with others and we may even develop a relationship with a higher power that is greater than we are acting alone.
It takes practice to integrate gratitude into our daily routine for maximum benefit on a habitual basis. You have to find what works for you.
What does a gratitude practice look like for you? It might be as simple as making a mental list as you fade off to sleep. It could be more in depth with a gratitude journal where you write down your list of favourite things or moments for the day. It could be joined to prayer, or even meditating on all you are grateful for. The first time I did a gratitude list was in a therapist session during a hypnosis on relaxation. We started with “I am grateful for…” and I related the things I was ever so grateful for as a stream of consciousness. One gratitude practice that I learned from my expressive arts therapist is to write a thank you note, to myself of all people! (if that feels too deep, try letting a friend know how much you enjoy and appreciate them).
It doesn’t have to be a formal discipline such as a written list. You could simply stop during your day, remember your commitment to feel gratitude, notice a blessing, and give thanks. Any moment can be a gratitude moment, even if it’s a matter of being grateful it didn’t turn out any worse than it did. A gratitude journey can serve to inspire you to appreciate those ordinary benign moments that pass us by without our notice, and express appreciation for gifts like our family or friends. It can bring the amazing into our frame of vision and help us to release our fears and scarcity perspectives. Gratitude is transformational – it can help us to acknowledge the little moments that to reframe our stories and allow us to rethink our negative or critical thoughts that permeate our consciousness and destroy our happiness. It is a simple and free technique that can make a lasting impression on the way we view our world. And help keep in check that part of us that is always striving, always wanting more and comparing ourselves to others where we fall short.
Some days will be easier to feel gratitude, such as when you are in a more loving mood. But regardless of how you are feeling, just do it anyways and pull out gratitude from your heart. Sometimes, I even put my hands on my heart to connect to the feeling of love, joy and happiness.
Lastly, share your gratitude moments with a special someone. Exchanging gratitude lists can be inspiring and help you keep up the practice. In time, a gratitude practice gains momentum and can turn into a long lasting, therapeutic habit….. one we can give thanks for.