• Rebecca Robinson

GRATITUDE: HOW TO BOOST HEALTH THROUGH THANKFULNESS


Gratitude is an art form. We all know what it means to be thankful. But so often we fall into the trap of only noticing the things that we don’t want in our lives. We focus on negativity and fail to see all the good that is there. But gratitude has the power to change our lives for the better.

Waking up to Gratitude

Gratitude is a feeling that we rarely allow ourselves to experience in the everyday. We save it up for the big events. It is in out-of-the-ordinary moments, like holidays, that we can feel most alive. The newness of our experiences heightens our senses. We feel our emotions more vibrantly. When we are on holiday, we are in a new place, and everything is fresh and different. We wake up, becoming more conscious of our surroundings and what we are experiencing. This helps us to notice everything with more clarity. We observe how relaxed and friendly the locals are. We see the bold colours of a sunset and the blue of the sea. We taste the ice cream and think it’s the best ice cream ever. We are thankful. We think to ourselves, how lucky people are to live here. But do the locals think the same? Probably not. And why is this? Because for them, it is their normal. It is their everyday. And the things we see every day, we stop noticing. We start to take things for granted. We think we have nothing to be grateful for. In reality, though, this is only because we have stopped seeing.

But gratitude is not something that we should reserve for when we are on annual vacation. We must shake off the cobwebs, open our eyes and see the ordinary wonders that glint in our daily lives. I guarantee you have more to be thankful for than you think. We should take gratitude from the back of the shelf, dust it off and practice it every day. In doing this, we will transform our lives and feel happier. We will become more present and aware and stop living on autopilot. We will reclaim our time and live with more mindfulness. When we see all the little things that happen, making us smile or feel awe, these moments will stack up until we have a whole lot of undeniable goodness before us.

Keeping a Gratitude Journal

Research has explored the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal. We should write down three things that we are thankful for each day. I do this each night before bed, writing my gratitude list in a beautiful journal. To begin with, it might seem difficult, but over time, I have noticed that three things isn’t enough. I now scribble down the side of the page, not wanting to forget to write down everything I can think of. There is so much to be grateful for in this amazing life that we live. It could be that you had an amazing hot chocolate at lunchtime. Or that you enjoyed the taste of fresh-baked bread dripping with real butter. It could be that you saw a beautiful sunrise as you woke up. Or it could be that your partner said ‘I love you’ or brought you a mug of tea or a bunch of roses. The things we are grateful for do not have to be epic in proportion. Small acts of kindness by others and little moments of awe that we usually take for granted are like wildflowers at the side of the road. They are there, waiting for us to pick them. If we slow down and decide to open our eyes, we will see them there, quiet and colourful in their humdrum setting.

Health Benefits of Gratitude

Being grateful is good for us. Studies have shown that gratitude is good for our mental and physical wellbeing. In training ourselves to look for kindnesses that others show us, we will feel more and more thankful. Think of gratitude as a muscle; exercise it and it will grow.

Simple Tips to Increase Gratitude

  • Smile more

  • Use language that is positive more

  • Say ‘thank you’ more

  • Commit to choosing to filter out more of the negative

In doing this, you will allow yourself to notice more good. Rewire your brain through a subtle shift in thinking and perception.

Thankfulness will help you to change your mood, thoughts and feelings. Over time, it will help you to feel calmer, more content and to have more clarity. You will gain compassion, feel less irritable, sleep better and boost your confidence. In expressing your appreciation, it will strengthen and improve your relationships. Noticing the small kindnesses that others gift us with will make us aware of how loved we are. And if we are thankful and kind, we will encourage this cycle of kind acts and things to feel grateful for.

Karma, ‘paying it forward’, what goes around comes around. Whatever you call it, being thankful, expressing gratitude and being kind will create change. Gratitude takes you out of your self, opens up your awareness, expands your worldview, and allows you to influence the mood of others. And that’s a very powerful thing.

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