Gratitude is described as the appreciation for what one has or receives (whether tangible or intangible) and the acknowledgement of the goodness that surrounds us.
Though we all practice gratitude up to a certain extent, we often ignore or underestimate the transformative power it can have. Turns out expressing gratitude has been linked to increased happiness and fulfillment levels. Could we be in front of the secret formula for a healthier, blissful life?
We might! UCLA's Mindfulness Awareness Research Center research has proven that gratitude has the power to alter our brain's molecular structure, making us healthier and happier. This in turn translates into more positive emotions, more compassion, better ways of dealing with adversity (more resilience), increased generosity, and reduced reactivity.
Gratitude also helps in building and maintaining strong relationships and helps people feel connected to something bigger than themselves (whether it might be other people, mother nature, or a higher power).
But that's not all, there are also physical health effects to practicing gratitude on a regular basis as it apparently also helps in lowering blood pressure and strengthening our immune system.
Do you need any more reasons to start expressing more gratitude?
How to practice gratitude in a healthy way
So before we start discussing ideas to practice kindness and gratitude on a regular basis, it's important to point out that it's not about "just focusing on the positive no matter what".
As discussed in one of our previous posts "Between Crystals & Full Moon Rituals - It's Time to Talk About Spiritual Bypassing", toxic positivity and other forms of bypassing can have negative effects in the long term as these undermine our path of self-growth.
Expressing gratitude should be a daily practice, not just a coping mechanism.
The idea is to make an effort to recognize the goodness around us as much as we notice the negatives, without covering up the emotions that later spike within us.
It's about appreciating the abundance around us instead of only looking at what we lack.
Here some ideas...
Might sound basic but you could keep a daily gratitude journal. I've tried these in the past and they didn't work for me because I tend to write about the same themes and people over and over again. Make sure you focus on new stuff every day, make the effort to see beyond what's immediately in front of you.
Praise a colleague on a weekly or monthly basis. Expressing gratitude towards an external person's work or effort will have positive effects on both parties
Keep personal tokens in sight to remind you of the things you're grateful for in a natural and effortless way. Could be a picture, a word written on a post-it, a special little object...
Try out meditations to learn and practice gratitude. Our collaborator Sandra Marín has created a mini session, which you can access here and enjoy for free
Be kind to yourself and acknowledge your progress with regards to learning, practicing your hobbies, self-developing, etc. Be grateful for your achievements.
Above all, be prepared to recognize and tackle obstacles that might arise on your way to keeping a regular practice. If you already know your concentration levels are not good at night, perhaps that's your cue to rethink the format and schedule it for the early morning.
Or if you find that a journal doesn't work for you, what about filling a jar with daily gratitude messages?
It might take some time and effort to find a system that works for you and feels natural in the long term, but don't give up! Practicing gratitude on the regular might be one of your best decisions this year.