It's been a long week. You're sitting at the kitchen table, going over everything that's happened and you can't help but feel overwhelmed. Life might not be going the way you want it to, but you know that things could be worse. As you sit there trying to avoid the slight feelings of sadness, pain, and despair that begrudgingly won't leave you alone, you wonder how do I counteract this? How do I become happy in these moments of despair? How do I help my mind and body go from a negative state to a more positive and uplifting one? While there could be many things you could do, one thing that stands out is being grateful for everything good that has happened to you this week; to give thanks for all the little things in your life that you sometimes take for granted. You say thank you for the food in your fridge, the clean water that you get to drink, and the roof over your head. You give thanks for your healthy body and mind and for being alive on this earth for another day. You start to cultivate an attitude of gratitude and all of a sudden things start to seem a little different, in fact, you feel different! The skies don't seem so gray anymore and take on a brighter color. The slight hum of silence you were hearing is replaced with the sounds of birds chirping and laughter. You no longer feel closed, but more open, less stressed, and more peaceful and free. The world seems like a much happier and nicer place to be. You harnessed the power of gratitude, and suddenly life isn't so bad,in fact, it's actually pretty good!
"Gratitude - the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness." - Merriam-Webster
Gratitude is a powerful emotion that can help you improve your physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. The best part? It's FREE. That's right; it cost nothing to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. The benefits that gratitude provides are things that people would willingly pay for, but you don't have to! Let's explore a couple of the different benefits of Gratitude together and a few exercises you can do to harness the power of gratitude into your life now.
Benefits of Gratitude
1. Improves Self-Esteem and Self-Confidence
Practicing gratitude helps to make us less envious and jealous of others and more appreciative of who we are and what we have to offer. It enhances feelings of positivity that radiate not only to others, but to ourselves as well. When we focus less on what we don't have and more on what we do, we become more proud and happy about our positive qualities and less concerned with those aspects of ourselves which we may not like. Gratitude can help you to feel better about your circumstances and better about yourself, which in return, raises your self-esteem and self-confidence.
2. Improves Mental Health
Studies have shown that individuals who practice gratitude daily are less stressed and stress hormones in the body, such as cortisol, are significantly lower. Gratitude also helps make you more resilient to future stress and gives you the power to bounce back from adversity much faster. Being grateful and practicing gratitude can also help alleviate symptoms of depression. It's hard to be sad when you're focusing on the good things in your life.
3. Improves Physical Health
Gratitude has the power to lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and help people get better quality sleep. When you are grateful for your body, you are more likely to take good care of it, which is why individuals who practice gratitude regularly are more apt to exercise and opt for a healthier diet.
4. Create Stronger Social Relationships
When you're more grateful for the relationships that you have, you're more likely to say thank you and to show appreciation to your friends, giving them feelings of love and support, which only serves to strengthen your relationships. Using this same attitude with new friends makes them more likely to want to create an ongoing relationship with you, helping you to build a larger network of people who appreciate and care for you.
How to Practice Gratitude
"The ultimate aim in practicing gratitude is to deliberately feel it as much as you can, because it's the force of your feeling that accelerates the magic in your life." - Rhonda Byrne
1. Gratitude Journal
A gratitude journal is an easy to way to start cultivating more gratitude into your life. Simply pick up any journal and everyday make a list of things that you are grateful for. You can be grateful for simple things like, life, air, water, and your health. You can be grateful for relationships like your mother, father, brother, sister, spouse, or friend. Or you can be grateful for things that you own like your car, house, your pair of headphones, shoes, or books!
A great gratitude journal that I like to use is called "The Secret Gratitude Book" by Rhonda Byrne. It's a stylish hardcover journal with a magnet flap, red bookmark, and inspirational quotes. My favorite part about this journal is that on each page there is "Thank You" written in a different language. This gratitude journal also pairs really well with "The Magic" by Rhonda Byrne, a book that has you practice a different gratitude technique for an entire month to bring the magic of gratitude into your life.
2. Say Thank You More Often
Thank You is one of the most powerful combinations of words ever to exist. It's right up there with "I am" and "Om." The more you deliberately think and say Thank You, the more gratitude you will feel and draw into your life. To make Thank You even stronger, be sure to say why you're thankful. Instead of just saying "Thank You" to the the shop clerk that helped you find what you need, say "Thank You for taking time out of your day to help me find what I wanted. I appreciate your help and kindness. Thank You." That is a lot more powerful. In fact, in "The Magic" by Rhonda Byrne she mentions that to really cultivate the power of the phrase "Thank You" you have to say it three times at once! She believes that this unleashes the true magic and power of saying and thinking Thank You.
3. Meditation and Mindfullness
When you become more mindful you become more aware of the good things happening in your life which naturally makes you more grateful and appreciative. When you learn to be more mindful, you start to become more aware of what you're thinking. It becomes much easier to catch yourself in a negative state of thinking and it becomes easier to re-direct your thoughts in a more positive direction. Meditation is a great exercise and practice that will naturally cultivate more mindfulness, which will lead to more gratitude and all the amazing benefits! Meditation doesn't have to be this extremely time-consuming or ultra-spirtual practice. Just 10 minutes a day of mindful meditation can lead to long lasting results. I recommend reading The Headspace Guide to Meditation and Mindfulness by Andy Puddicombe. It's a great book which teaches you the benefits of mediation, why you should do it, and gives you an easy step-by-step guide on how to mindfully meditate for 10 minutes a day.
What are you grateful for?
How do you cultivate more gratitude into your life?
How has being grateful changed your life?
Let me know in the comments below!