Gratitude is defined as a feeling of appreciation or thanks. We usually associate gratitude with Thanksgiving, which is a holiday based on thankfulness. But what about the other 364 days in the year? Do we express our gratitudes on a daily basis? If not, why not? Not to sound like the proverbial inspirational quote, but we DO have plenty to be thankful for.
Gratitude helps us see what’s there instead of what isn’t.
Gratitudes can be big, small and anything in between. It is not just the big things in life that we need to be grateful for, like winning the lottery. What about all the little things? You wake up every morning, right? You see that beautiful sunrise on the way to work, maybe? You have clothes to wear, food to eat, books to read, phones to keep in touch with friends and family, hobbies to engage in, and so on.
Sometimes the smallest thing can be the most powerful gratitude. Think about when your daughter/son says “I love you” or the amazing smell of coffee in the morning. Do we ever say out loud or to ourselves, “WOW, I am so thankful for that first cup of coffee in the morning.”
Gratitude is good for your physical and psychological health. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude daily improves heart health, increases happiness, enhances relationships, improves sleep, reduces stress, improves self-esteem and boosts energy levels. What’s even more impressive is that it can actually reduce the chance or level of heart disease.
UCLA has been doing studies on the effects of daily gratitude journaling and have been amazed at how it can prevent and reduce inflammation which causes plaque buildup in the arteries. They aren’t sure exactly how the practice of gratitude does this, but they think it's because it reduces stress, a huge factor in heart disease.
Since gratitudes are easy to do, why not add them to your day? Below are some great ideas on how to incorporate it into a weekly, daily or monthly routine.
Every morning I journal. Sometimes it’s just me rambling about stuff. And other times I spend my 10 minutes listing everything I am grateful for, it doesn’t matter how big or small. One morning I even listed ‘finding a workable pen’ in our house so I could journal. (Don’t you hate it when all the pens you try are dried up?) Like I said, sometimes it’s the little things. By the time I finish with my gratitude journaling, my heart is smiling and it has set a positive tone for my day.
Adding it to a Daily Habit
Choose a mundane daily habit that allows you time to think about your gratitudes. If you're thinking, what's a 'mundane daily habit'?...…… What about showering? Wouldn’t it be more satisfying to think about what you're grateful for, then stewing about the past, worrying about your upcoming day or stressing over your to-do list. I’m sure being able to take a hot shower would be high up on your list. If the shower is not your thing, then maybe you want to do it while you are brushing your teeth, folding laundry, driving to work or making dinner. Attach it to a daily habit and IT becomes a habit.
Mindful Gratitude Meditation/Prayer
Find a quiet spot to sit where you won’t be disturbed and can be comfortable. Sit in silence for a few minutes to let the mind settle. Then begin to silently list the things you are grateful for, in your mind. The key to this mindful meditation is to FEEL the feelings of gratitude as you list them. If you can’t FEEL the appreciation then it’s not going to be as effective.
Sharing Your Appreciation
Our appreciation doesn’t have to solely benefit us. We can show our appreciation for those around us like, our family, friends, the cashier at the grocery store, a mentor, and someone who opens the door for us. Gratitude is not meant to be kept inside but shared. Take the time to tell someone ‘I appreciate all that you do.’ Trust me, you will make that person’s day, week or year. For bonus points, compose an ‘appreciation’ letter for someone and drop it on their desk, send it via email or drop it in the mail. WOW! Can you imagine how that would make their day?
Showing gratitude is the simplest and powerful thing we as humans can do for one another.
If you want to get started right away with you gratitude journey, why not start by sharing this blog with someone you are grateful for? Tell them how much you appreciate them for all that they are and all that they do.
Expressing gratitude shouldn’t be reserved for the good times in our life either. During tough times we need to express it even more. Gratitude is the best kept secret for true happiness. Gratitude forces us to be in the moment, to appreciate all that we have, all that we are and all that we are experiencing.
To that end, I am so grateful for all of you who are taking the time to read my blogs and supporting me in this journey.