Gratitude is defined as the appreciation of what is valuable and meaningful to oneself. What I am grateful for may differ from what you are grateful for, but each thought will bring a level of value and wellbeing to our lives.
There are eight dimensions of wellbeing: emotional, environmental, financial, intellectual, occupational, physical, social and spiritual. Each aspect of your wellbeing is equally important, and practicing gratitude is just one way you can tend to your emotional wellbeing on the journey to care for your whole self.
Research has shown that consciously practicing gratitude can reduce feelings of stress and anxiety. Studies have found that a single act of thoughtful gratitude produces an immediate 10% increase in happiness, and a 35% reduction in depressive symptoms. These studies also show that the effects of happiness from this one thought disappeared within three to six months, so we are reminded to practice gratitude over and over.
So, keep filling your cup of gratitude so that is doesn't go dry!
To me gratitude means having enough self-awareness to know when and how to say thank you. It means you recognize that you have received something, either a physical gift or an act of kindness from someone else, for which you should say thank you. Then you turn that feeling of thankfulness into the action of gratitude. It becomes a lifestyle choice!
I think many people have forgotten the very basic act of being grateful because our world has gotten so fast-paced and divided that people have taken the “me first” attitude vs. what I was taught when I was growing up, which was the lesson of “do unto others as you want them to do unto you.” We have lost some of our ability to be kind to one another.
Through my cancer journey, I learned that when fear became so overwhelming, it would often manifest as anger, and I think that may be happening to us as a nation. As more people hold elevated levels of fear because of a variety of issues, some of which they control and many of which they do not, maybe their level of fear is manifesting as anger. If you are fearful or angry, it is very difficult to hold a feeling of gratitude. But, on the flipside, if you carry an attitude of gratitude, it’s much harder to be angry or depressed.
Here are some useful ways to practice daily gratitude:
- Trust Yourself. Before you can be grateful for things around you, you must be grateful for yourself. You must trust that you are a strong and beautiful human capable of whatever you set your mind to. You must be honest with yourself that know that your best is good enough. Try being your own best friend and see how that feels.
- Don’t Judge. None of us knows what others might be going through. Don’t judge the actions of others so harshly. Give them the benefit of the doubt and try to empathize with what they might be going through. Assume the best and not the worst. Give more than you take and lend a helping hand if you can.
- Create a Ritual. Make gratitude part of your daily routine. Practice the “Three Things I’m Grateful For” ritual every day, where you name three things you are grateful for each morning before getting out of bed. Soon you’ll see that it becomes part of your being and that you can’t start your day without first naming three things that you are most grateful for. According to experts it takes just 66 days for a new behavior to become a habit. I say, create this daily routine for 66 days and see how you feel. I bet you’ll feel awesome!
- The More We Look; the More We See. Keep going, don’t stop with three things. Name more as time goes one. Get to a point of naming five things every day. Then keep going to ten. The more we look around us the more we see the gifts that are laid before us. There really is much to be grateful for.
- Pay it Forward. Help others to practice a daily ritual of gratitude. The more we work together in support of one another, the better and stronger our communities become. Reach out to a friend and practice the gratitude ritual together, then reach out to more friends.
If you practice these steps for a period of time, you will see that your feelings of gratitude will grow both within you and throughout your entire circle of friends.
Imagine how awesome that will be!