As many of us gather with family and friends to celebrate this week, there is no better healthy habit to talk about than gratitude. I love the definition of gratitude that the all-knowing Google first generates: the state of being thankful. I love it so much because so often we add one more thing to check off our To Do Lists when we think being grateful, but in this definition, the emphasis is on being as opposed to doing, and I think that is a great relief.
Now, this isn’t to say there aren’t steps we can take to help restore our hearts to a more graceful state of being grateful–there are and I will talk about a couple in just a bit–but it primes us for a way of being as opposed to doing. And if you’re anything like me, not having another thing to do in an already busy schedule is just fine by me.
I doubt I have to convince too many people of the benefits of being grateful, but for those of you still on the fence, here goes. Gratitude is linked to both our psychological and physical health and wellbeing. People who practice gratitude have decreased levels of not so fun emotions of resentment, frustration, and envy. Instead of rehearsing why it isn’t fair that we don’t have the newest tech gadget or pair of shoes, we can remember to be thankful for that which we already have like friends and family that love us or a roof over our head. It’s like looking at our cups as half full as opposed to half empty, and after a while half full starts to look pretty abundant in fact.
Gratitude also can help us stretch our brain’s resiliency muscles. It helps fortify a practice and foundation of wellbeing, so when disaster strikes, we are more capable of dealing with it. I know from personal experience how true this part is. I have been one of the thousands affected in the California Camp Fires. I have relied on my practice of gratitude heavily in this time of trauma, uncertainty, and transition. I’m even grateful I have gratitude as a coping mechanism! I can hardly imagine handling this situation without a large dose of perspective gratitude has offered me in return.
So, how do we incorporate more gratitude into our daily lives?
- Keeping a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to bolster your practice of being grateful. Each morning write at least three things you are grateful for. I love starting the morning off with gratitude; it sets your day up for success first thing. I would suggest also writing at least three things you are grateful for each evening as well. It is an excellent way to review your day and realign your mind with the good as opposed to the struggle.
- Practice writing thank you notes. Sure you can send an email or text to thank someone, but there is something special about taking the time to handwrite a note of gratitude. And from personal experience, people LOVE getting snail mail–it is a lost art, but I sense a resurrection just around the corner
- Practice verbally thanking people for any and all acts that bring you comfort, joy, and smiles. My friends and I have a particular practice that I greatly appreciate, and that is anytime one of us is vulnerable in sharing her/his feelings, we thank that person. It builds a relationship and leaves all of us feeling a little more content, but you can literally thank anyone for almost anything. Don’t be scared! Go out there and get thanking!