Gratitude. It’s not just for social etiquette.
As tiny humans, from the time we were able to interact with adults, we are taught to say thank you. Thank you is drilled into our heads as a polite thing to say. It’s part of the social norm, the social etiquette of a civilized society. We recite from rote and pay no mind to what it really means to us physiologically.
Recently, the science, yes, I said science, of gratitude has really blossomed. Positive Psychology is a relatively new field in science that looks at how ordinary people can become happier and more fulfilled. Gratitude plays a big role. Doesn’t matter how young, old, sick or tired you are – gratitude helps. Even “Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a Rather Large Amount of Gratitude” (A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh).
Benefits of GratitudeIncreases your happiness
Protects you from stress and negativity
Reduces your materialism
Leads to better relationships
Improves sleep quality and duration
Really want to understand how scientists study the relationship between gratitude and biological responses in our bodies? Watch Dr. Wendy Mendes of the University of California, San Francisco, discuss her research, “Effects of Measured and Manipulated Gratitude on Biomarkers of Health and Aging.” Super interesting and proof positive that gratitude makes you healthier while making your life sweeter!
Barriers to Gratitude
There are barriers to gratitude and they are self-imposed. Before you read further, promise to be candid with yourself and see if there is something you can improve upon in this list.
Thoughtlessness – Ouch! None of us like to feel like we are thoughtless, but when we run the gerbil wheel of life instead of mindfully walking our own path things are forgotten. For example:• Too busy doing
• Not understanding where true help comes from
• No time to dedicate to others
• Not paying attention to others’ feelings, comments or behaviors
Discontent – Follow me here and ask yourself the question, “How can I share true positive feelings if my mind is cluttered with negative emotions?”
Selfishness – Another ouch! Be honest with yourself and see if you have any of the following habits.• Disregarding team efforts
• Taking credit on the back of others
• Motivating by personal gain
• Disrupting conversations or meetings
• All day on the phone with no respect for others
Something so simple can garner huge benefits in living a more sustainably healthy and happy life. Living an attitude of gratitude is not difficult, but may feel awkward at first. Remember, as humans, we tend to gravitate to the familiar – whether it is good for us or not. This includes our thoughts. Try these tips to flex that gratitude muscle inside. Dust it off and work it out real good! You will see and feel results. Others will notice it in you too. Once you see and feel the difference, don’t stop. Push through the pull of ‘normal’ and create a vibrant new normal for yourself.
1. Journal – Scientists have found keeping a gratitude list can increase your well-being and significantly increase your happiness. There is data showing daily or even weekly gratitude journaling is helpful. It’s a good practice to take 10 minutes a day to write down things you are grateful for and that bring you joy. They can be big or small as long as you tune into the feelings of gratitude for having them in your life right now.
2. Meditate – Dedicate a few minutes each day to gratitude. If you are new to meditation there are powerful guided meditations centered on gratitude to get you started. This short video by Brother David Steindl-Rast is fabulous as well. Great reminder – watch it and bookmark that baby for future reference!
I have faith in your ability to adopt an attitude of gratitude. My heart swells with gratitude that you are here reading this – right this very moment. Peace and blessings…