“This is a wonderful day. I have never seen this one before.” - Maya Angelou
Every day when I wake up, I go outside and lift my head to the sun. I close my eyes and see the red underside of my eyelids. I feel warmth. I take a deep breath and release all of my thoughts. Listening to the sounds of my yard and letting my physical body respond to the weather, I take a moment to calm and ground. I find the connection to my higher power and begin to list all of the things for which I am grateful. I tell the Divine that I am grateful, not only for all of the things that bring me joy but for my sorrows as well. I am simply grateful for being alive.
No matter what is going on, that moment seems to set me straight. I can feel it in every cell of my body. In less than five minutes, I have strengthened my bond with the Divine and taught my brain to seek out the things that bring me joy. In addition, I have taken the steps of transmuting my troubles into opportunities. I am happy.
By definition, gratitude is the quality of being thankful, a readiness to show appreciation, and an effort to return kindness. For many of us, gratitude does not come naturally. Many are lost in the daily grind, but taking a moment to cultivate gratitude can have long-lasting effects. Some of the benefits of practicing gratitude are improved health, better social lives, and increased happiness.
There have been many studies on this phenomenon, all showing that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed. One such study, called The Gratitude Project, found that practicing gratitude can even be beneficial for those who struggle with mental health concerns such as depression and anxiety. The Gratitude Project selected 300 adults from a University campus to participate. All of the participants were seeking mental health counseling.
Candidates were assigned into three groups. Although all three groups received counseling services, the first group was also instructed to write one letter of gratitude to another person each week for three weeks, whereas the second group was asked to write about their deepest thoughts and feelings about negative experiences. The third group did not do any writing activity.
The Gratitude Project found that compared with the participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote letters of gratitude reported significantly better mental health. It’s important to note that the benefits of the exercises did not emerge immediately, but gradually accrued over time. However, the study also observed a positive snowball effect, as participants reported increased mental wellbeing 4-12 weeks after the letter-writing ended. Not only did the effects last, but they grew over time. Good news, right?
Finding ways to invite gratitude into your life is a worthy endeavor. Building a practice that has meaning and fits your lifestyle, and sticking to it is the key to success here. Here are a few suggestions, but feel free to expand these however you like.
Increase awareness of your internal dialog. Pay attention to how you are seeing the world. When you find yourself caught up in negative feelings, shift your attention to the things within that situation that inspire gratitude.
Spend a few minutes each day writing down what you are grateful for. This will help you remember that, even if you are having a hard time, there are still many things in life for which you can give thanks.
Share the love by giving compliments or praise. Let other people know that you appreciate them. Practice random acts of kindness.
Thank you for taking a moment to read this article. I wish you all increased happiness and a deep, unwavering culture of gratitude.