Practicing gratitude is like yoga for the heart; it stretches, lengthens, and expands our capacity to be appreciative, thankful, and ultimately happier.
Like yoga, or other forms of exercise, the more practiced we become, and in this case, in allowing a particular emotion – gratitude – to resonate inside of us, the more it comes a lifestyle choice.
Establishing a daily practice – taking time to notice and be grateful for the good stuff in our lives – fills our hearts and minds with gratitude and lets happiness linger inside of us.
For me, after I sit down with my morning coffee and my gratitude journal, my heart literally hums with goodwill and well-being. I feel safe, nourished, and much more satisfied about my lot in life.
What Stops Us From Practicing Gratitude?
This ultimate sense of satisfaction is, quite possibly, what keeps people from establishing a gratitude practice. Perhaps they worry: if they muster gratitude for the circumstances in their lives they will lose the ambition to go about changing things for the better.
And yet, waiting for full-fledged happiness to arrive only after the pushing and striving is done, robs us of the chance to experience every day jolts of joy as part of life’s journey.
Taking Things for Granted:
When was the last time you stopped to be grateful for running water and electricity, fresh, clean air, avocados and oranges in grocery bins in the middle of winter?
It is easy to take the mundane, daily aspects of our lives for granted, especially when life is going (mostly) smoothly.
Since we don’t have to walk long miles to get anywhere, or grow our own food, or read by candlelight, it is easy to forget just how good we have it: paved roads, metro bus systems, well-stocked grocery shelves, electricity.
Our Negativity Bias:
Focusing on the good can be a challenge because, according to a host of research on the topic, our brains are hardwired to notice negative events, over the good ones. Evolutionarily this makes sense as our ancestors survived by remembering which ones were the poisonous berries, and learning to recognize the approach of a predator.
A daily gratitude practice gives our minds a break from scanning the environment for danger; this reprieve allows us to settle into a more peaceful, relaxed frame of mind where we can see our lives through the lens of opportunity and possibility instead of from lack or threat.
There is significant benefit to consciously cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Being grateful builds up a sort of psychological immune system, according to Dr. Emmons, the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude.
Grateful people, according to scientific evidence, are more resilient to stress, whether minor everyday hassles or major personal upheavals, and are more physically fit, sleep better, and have lower blood pressure.
Grateful individuals also have developed three key traits which boost their happiness:
A sense of abundance. They do not feel they have been deprived in life; they are grateful for their experience
An appreciation of simple pleasures. They notice everyday common things; this elevates the ordinary into something beneficial that contributes to their overall happiness.
A sense of shared success. While they take appropriate credit for their achievements, they are quick to acknowledge individuals who have contributed to their success.
The Gratitude Journal:
Like yoga, or meditation, or running, keeping a Gratitude Journal is a great practice. It is a living, breathing document which expands our hearts. By allowing our hearts to fill with gratitude, our happiness settles more deeply in our bones; it lingers.
Regular entries help us savor the ordinary events of our lives, stretching our sense of what we can be grateful for. Instead of glossing over the common, we celebrate it; the abundance in our lives is revealed.
What did you experience today that you can be grateful for?
What ordinary thing made your life easier or better?
Who helped contribute to the successful events of your day?
Here’s to YOUR thriving!
P.S. I’d love to learn more about your gratitude practice and what you notice happens as you commit to this practice.
P.P.S. Did you find value in this post? If you did, please, absolutely, share this blog post with a friend. 🙂