The Power of Gratitude
“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”
Is it possible to increase your health, happiness, & connection to others through a simple act that takes only minutes a day? Believe it or not, the answer is a definitive yes.
What could possibly create health, happiness, and better relationships in only a few minutes a day?
The answer is gratitude. Really, you ask? Being grateful can do all of that?
Yes, it can!
So, what is gratitude?
At its most basic, it is being thankful for what you already have.
As crazy as it sounds, Stanford researcher and author, Emma Seppälä, contends that practicing gratitude is associated with:
- Decreased stress and depression;
- Increased happiness and well-being;
- Better relationships.
Additionally, she provides a body of scientific studies to back it up.
How does being grateful apply to you and how do you practice it?
Gratitude is about counting our blessings and acknowledging that, in any given moment, we have at least some things—and often many things—for which to be grateful.
These can include anything from being healthy to the presence of friends and loved ones to the beautiful banter of nearby songbirds to the warm sunshine on our faces.
We have countless things for which to be grateful, and when we stop to notice them, we are offering ourselves an incredible gift. Even when times are hard, a grateful perspective can allow us to embrace the opportunity for growth that tough times provide.
According to Brother David Steindl-Rast, if we are alive and breathing, there is reason to be grateful. Brother David defines gratitude as noticing “… all that is already present and abundant – from the tiniest things of beauty to the grandest of our blessings – and in so doing, to take nothing for granted. We can learn to focus our attention on, and acknowledge, that life is a gift.”
The positive effects of gratitude and maintaining a grateful perspective on life deepen with regular practice.
Practice is not difficult, does not require a big investment of time, and there are countless ways to create a gratitude practice.
Add Gratitude to Your Life. Start Here!
Get a journal or notebook, write down the date, and once a day, sit down and make a list of at least 3 things you are grateful for in that moment on that day.
At least one of them should be something that is tangible and happening right at that moment. This will help you develop an appreciation for the countless small miracles that are occurring around you all the time.
I practice gratitude every morning as part of my morning routine.
Some of the small but tangible things I repeatedly find myself expressing gratitude for are: the quiet of the house in early morning; the soft warm glow of morning sunshine on the leaves of the mesquite tree outside our kitchen window causing them to sparkle and glisten a vibrant green; the deep, enchanting sounds of the large wind chime in our backyard; the tall fan palms swaying gently in the breeze above the rooftop; and, the satisfaction of sipping warm, earthy puehr tea as I write in my journal.
Since starting this practice, I find myself noticing more small miracles more often without making any effort to do so—and my life has become richer as a result.
I have also found that the simple act of acknowledging some of the many things I have to be grateful for can change a foul or negative mood quickly.
Once you make your list, close your eyes, and feel your gratitude for each of the people or things on your list, one-by-one.
Don’t just think about them—truly feel your gratitude for each. It doesn’t have to take long, but you do need to feel them deeply.
If I am having trouble connecting strongly to the feeling of gratitude, I find it helpful to imagine not having that person or thing in my life. So, for instance, if I am having trouble feeling gratitude for my body painlessly and effortlessly carrying me through space, day in and day out, I imagine being physically injured or sick and losing this freedom. This simple act helps me connect to the gratitude I have for my physical health. If I cannot feel my gratitude for a loved one, I imagine not having them in my life, and I am able to connect quickly to the deep gratitude I have for them.
This last step is important because it is in truly feeling grateful—not simply saying or thinking it—wherein lies the antidote for stress, negativity, and depression.
When you are feeling grateful, it is nearly impossible to simultaneously feel angry, depressed, fearful or stressed.
In fact, I find it impossible to repress the smile that this type of gratitude brings to my face. I may look strange, sitting with my eyes closed, smiling oddly, but I could care less because I feel great!
So, stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and acknowledge the many things in life you have to be grateful for.
You won’t regret it.