Do you have a gratitude attitude? If you answered yes, how do you know this? What is it that you measure this by? How do you show and/ or practice gratitude? Is gratitude something that is experiential based only or is gratitude something for you that simply just is … always, or at least a majority of the time?
Gratitude is one of those things that is often talked about & discussed as far as being a necessary element to have a healthy perspective on life, and to keep ourselves in what a lot of people call “state.” State is your mental state at any given time; your perception of things and how you emotionally react or not to a situation.
It’s no secret that have gratitude supports greater mental health and with that, also supports greater physical health. How? It’s actually quite simple. People who are naturally more grateful and thankful are happier. When a person is happy their mindset is in a state where they make better decisions. These decisions affect all aspects of a persons life. Think of it this way … if you are in a “funk” and feeling miserable, you’ve had a terrible day where it seems that everything that can go wrong does go wrong, chances are your focus is going to be pretty much all about that. Nothing has gone right and “nothing ever will.” This causes a shift in our consciousness that ends up with us being more aware of all the things we see as wrong and working against us. Now it can be hard in the heat of the moment to shift our perception, even two degrees, to focus on something to be grateful for. However, if we are able to step out of the funk and into the mindset of “okay, what in my life IS really good,” it can actually begin to shift your from “ugh” to “huh.”
Okay, so it’s not always that easy. Let’s face it, things can sometimes go really, REALLY sideways on us and knock the wind right out of our sails. But it is a conscious choice as far as how long we want to stay in that place mentally. And I’m not suggesting that in the middle of something that is causing huge frustrations or challenges in your day, you should always be able to turn into Mary Poppins. It is okay to get frustrated and angry. We are all human and those are very real and sometimes appropriate emotions to a situation and/ or an experience we are having.
So how does gratitude come into play? Well, by practicing gratitude daily, it becomes a habit; a healthy habit that can then become a pattern of behavior. Over time daily gratitude practice and exercises can actually have a pretty powerful impact in how we respond to stressful and unpleasant situations. It does not mean that we will never get angry or even have a tantrum, however it can help us to become a bit less reactive … it can take the edge off, sometimes.
Need some hard science to believe that simply being grateful can have this kind of long term impact? I was hoping you’d ask, lol. One study done at UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center reported the following results:
“… having an attitude of gratitude changes the molecular structure of the brain, keeps grey matter functioning and makes us healthier and happier. When you feel happiness the CNS is affected. You are more peaceful, less reactive and less resistant.” (1)
How can we become more grateful? There is no magic formula and it’s not something that POOF, you begin practicing and within a week you are no longer affected by every day challenges and frustrations. But with regular practice and by incorporating some small daily rituals into your life, you will start to notice some changes in your perspective on some things. Just like with an exercise program, start small and be realistic. Only you know what your day looks like and only you know what you are willing to commit to doing regularly to become more grateful in your life. And you do not need to look for or wait for BIG things to happen to be grateful! Ask yourself right now, “what is one thing in my life that I am very grateful for?” It could be that really delicious cup of coffee you had this morning on your way into work. Maybe it was having time to have breakfast with your kids. Maybe it was that you have the day off. I don’t know what you have to be grateful for but I do know that there is at least one thing you can think of … and probably a lot more. Don’t complicate this!
Still not sure or want some more ideas on how to start practicing gratitude daily? Again, I was hoping you’d ask! Here is my top 5 list of things that you can do to help yourself practice daily gratitude. Now keep in mind this is MY top 5 list, it’s not a “to do” list. You may have some other wonderful ideas of your own and you should do those because they obviously resonate with you. Just start with one thing … one small daily practice can lead to some pretty significant changes!
1. Keep a gratitude journal
2. Be mindful of your language. Use happy, positive language.
3. Send 3 gratitude messages/ text daily. Short, simple and sweet.
4. Pause in the happy moments and savor them.
5. End your day remembering 3 things that you are grateful for and say them out loud.
Here’s to living with gratitude and in excellent health always. I’m grateful for the opportunity to write this article and share it with you.