Muhammad said that gratitude for the abundance you’ve received is the best insurance that the abundance will continue.
Lao Tzu said that if you rejoice in the way things are, the whole world will belong to you.
Krishna said that whatever he is offered, he accepts with joy.
And Jesus said thank you before he performed each miracle.
Our ancients certainly knew the power of gratitude. ‘Thank you,’ the magical words, as Rhonda Byrne says in her The Secret Gratitude Book, can actually do wonders. Various studies back up the effects and impacts of practicing gratitude. When times are tough, and you are working relentlessly hard, it is important to remember the power of the little things. We hope that this post will act as a reminder that there is always something to be grateful for around us, and that someone is thankful for your hard work. Being grateful could make you love your life. So, let 2020 be the year that we add gratitude to our to-do list because it can change your life.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons (the author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier), has shown that people who regularly practice gratitude and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have better immune systems. And gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved just for the big moments because we can just as effortlessly be grateful for a promotion at work, as we can for a delicious piece of cake.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude.”― Ralph Waldo Emerson
What does gratitude mean?
The dictionary’s definition of gratitude: ‘the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindnesses.’ But we like this version from the Harvard Medical School better as it provides more detail: “a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. With gratitude, people acknowledge the goodness in their lives … As a result, gratitude also helps people connect to something larger than themselves as individuals – whether to other people, nature, or a higher power”
The bunch of recent studies from august institutions have linked gratitude to wellbeing, both physical and mental. One of our favorites: “more gratitude was associated with better mood, better sleep, less fatigue and lower levels of inflammatory biomarkers related to cardiac health” (American Psychological Association).
Research aside, I am sure a lot of us have wondered how to be grateful, given our often messy lives: finances in the doldrums, career going downhill, or relationship with our significant other almost over…And these findings, compelling as they are, haven’t made us make gratitude a habit. More often than not, we have ended up vegetating in front of the television. Internet research, however, showed us that gratitude has helped numerous people including Roz Savage, the first woman to row solo across three oceans, who used it to stay motivated.
We discovered that the attitude of gratitude only needs some practice and constant effort to help us maintain it in the long term. Here are some of the ways to look at the brighter side of your story.
1. A Gratitude Journal
This is one of the most talked-about ways to practice gratitude. It simply requires you to write what you feel thankful for and to do it every day, without a miss. Write about the good things that you have felt throughout the day in your gratitude journal. Jot down your blessings today and you will be surprised by the number. You can also be grateful that you can read this article!
2. Appreciate the small stuff
Do keep in mind that there are things in our life we ignore and easily overlook. If we wake up in our bed, under a cozy blanket, have breakfast, can walk, talk, dance, sing, read, drive, say good morning to anyone you like and do thousands of activities like these, each one of those is a blessing. There are many who can’t afford the amenities we call the ‘basics of life’. If you have even one person that loves you for who you are, you are blessed.
3. Take up a cause
When you sign up for a cause bigger than yourself, congratulations, you are going to feel immense gratitude.
“In my 30’s, I wanted to do something for others, people who are not a part of my life. I went to an orphanage and saw hundreds of children of various age groups living there. They are served meals (not so good and hygienic), they were wearing clothes (dirty and torn) and yet live in peace and love, they play with each other and try to live their life in the best way they can. Some were even unwell. I started going there every day. I give them food, clothes, medicines, and other basic stuff. They love me and so do I. They are a part of my life now. They changed my life; the things that I used to crib about before seem useless to me. I feel that I have more than enough to live a happy and content life, and I thank God and many others for this wonderful life. If I didn’t go there and join them, I might have never understood what gratitude means and the magic it can do. I am not saying that I don’t have low moments in my life, I do. But they don’t stay for long,” says Meenakshi.
The practice of gratitude can change one’s mindset, which is one of the biggest hurdles in adopting a new habit. Reading positive stories can also help, and one of the platforms where you can find many stories is Black Lotus, a kindness and meditation app.
4. Being thankful, Mindfully
Every day sit and picture five to seven things that you are thankful for. Hold the feeling of gratitude in your body. As you do this every day, you’re rewiring your brain to be naturally more grateful.
The benefits of gratefulness? “There is evidence to suggest that an intentional practice of gratitude can change the brain by affecting the hypothalamus, which is the part of our brain that regulates bodily function like our appetite, sleep, temperature, metabolism, and growth. And like most things that affect the brain, it can also be addictive,” says an article on gratitude published on International Coach Academy.
According to an article on https://positivepsychology.com/, gratitude does four things:
- Gratitude disconnects us from toxic, negative emotions and the ruminating that often accompanies them.
- Expressing gratitude helps us even if we don’t explicitly share it with someone. We’re happier and more satisfied with life because we completed the exercise.
- The positive effects of gratitude writing compound like interest. You might not notice the benefit of daily or weekly practice, but after several weeks and months, you will.
- A gratitude practice trains the brain to be more in tune with experiencing gratitude — a positive plus a positive equal more positives.
Professor of Psychology and Head of Silliman Residential College at Yale University, Laurie Santos who teaches the popular The Science of Wellbeing course says you need to take time to feel gratitude, it’s only then you get the full benefit. Think about ‘What would my life be like without this thing?’ Ariana Huffington writes, ‘It’s like white blood cells for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation — a small miracle that produces a lingering moment of grace.
Gratitude is an attitude. Gratitude is a choice. And gratitude is powerful. So take the first important step and give thanks. And patiently watch as gratitude pays itself forward in the new era.
Black Lotus is a global initiative to spread goodness and peace through meditation and Random Acts of Kindness (Raks). This grand movement is inspired and led by Om Swami.