Gratitude has very positive effects on all levels of our being. The feeling of gratitude is one that acknowledges the goodness in our life; it contributes to feelings of peace, joy and happiness.
Science demonstrates that by cultivating positive emotions like gratitude, people experience lower levels of stress. In addition, gratitude promotes relationship formation and maintenance, and strengthens relationships, as well as connection and satisfaction.
Gratitude could be seen as the mother all virtues, the key that opens the door, for it compels people to become more altruistic, more giving, outgoing, compassionate and more generous. However, this attitude may not be natural at first, therefore, it will require to be cultivated by putting in place some practices.
So, how can you cultivate this positive emotion in your life to harvest its many benefits?
Here are a few simple ways to start with:
1) Focus on GRATEFUL THINKING and eliminate ungrateful thoughts or perceptions of boredom and apathy. A way of doing this is by changing perspective. Perhaps you will have heard that ‘an mind is like a parachute, it works best when is open’. Well, seeing challenges as opportunities to have new and exciting experiences, seeing boredom as potential for developing your creativity, seeing apathy as a restful space, a pause, seeing what you think don’t deserve as an opportunity for learning, and focussing on what you have rather than what you lack, … are all ways that will help you tap into gratitude.
2) Say THANK YOU! Words, like thoughts, are powerful. How many things we take for granted! Let’s say for example with your partner. He or she drives you somewhere, or takes the kids for walk so you can have some time on your own, or takes them to bed, or when he or she listens to you… or anything else that you have become accustomed with them doing. Say thank you! Even if they say it was nothing, it is nice to have it recognised. It is not a hard thing to do, but it can go a long way. Hearing someone saying thank you, it can make a positive difference as it recognises the effort and energy invested, and therefore it helps building self-esteem and connexion. Feel it and then say it, it will have more meaning. In addition to your words, you can perform little actions that show your gratitude.
3) Create a GRATITUDE RITUAL. Every morning, first thing when you wake up, before opening your eyes or even before getting out of bed, think of the people in your life that you are grateful for.
4) Count your many blessings! Start a GRATITUDE JOURNAL. If writing is not for you, you could do this on your head by reflecting on what has happened on you day that you are grateful for.
You can describe, in a single sentence, a few things you are grateful for that had occurred during the day.
Or you could make a list with bullet points like this:
I am grateful for…
the extra hour in bed this morning
the sight out of my window
how the birds were singing ouside
my partner preparing pancakes for breakfast
having some time on my own to write on my blog
You can be grateful about very simple things, in fact there can be so much satisfaction out of small things like a smile, the gaze of small child, the sun shining, the smell of bread baking in the oven, and the soft feeling on your body of clean towels.
You can be grateful to yourself for planning a day out, some time alone, going dancing, running, going for a walk in nature, having a bath… anything that feels good to you, it could be anything. Besides, creating space for the things you enjoy is another way of cultivating positive emotions, so do more of those! :)
To write on your gratitude journal, can take only 2 minutes or you could spend as much time as you wish, describing the feelings and emotions that arose in you as a consequence of that which you are grateful for.
You can write about how grateful you feel for that cup of tea in the morning that makes you feel warm, or for that shoulder rub that your friend gave you, leaving you relaxed, revived and restored and enabled you to face the rest of the day with a calm and positive attitude. You could write about how you feel about your neighbour and how much you appreciate her (she offered to have your child play with hers in her house while you stayed at home doing your yoga exercises!).
If this kind of practice is new for you, you may be surprised, once you start doing this exercise, how many things are there in your life to be grateful for. The more you practise this, the more you will find that gratitude will become a settled way of thinking or feeling about everything around you. With time, this attitude towards life will become second nature and you will feel more connected to life.
You could do this daily, weekly or as often as you wish. Having in mind that the more frequently you practice this exercise, the more you will benefit and the fastest you will see the results.
5) Use VISUAL REMINDERS. You could use a bracelet that reminds you to practice gratefulness, or you could start a by decorating a simple jar and displaying it somewhere obvious in your house. You can fill it with coins every time you remember and when is full you can buy something for someone you are grateful in your life as a way of saying thank you! or you can donate it to a charity or project of your like. This is a beautiful thing to do with children as they learn not only to be grateful and generous, but it conveys the message that life is abundant and a beautiful place to live in where people are kind to each other.
6)Write a GRATITUDE LETTER. First, think of someone who has done something important and wonderful for you, yet who has not been properly thanked. Reflect on how you felt on the presence of that person, or what they did, how they treated you that meant so much to you. Write all the things that you appreciate about them. Then arrange to deliver the letter in person and spend some time with them, telling them all about what you wrote. A study by Seligman, Steen, and Peterson (2005) experimented with this and the results showed that participants who engaged in the gratitude visit reported more happiness for one month after the intervention compared to a control group that did not.
7) HUG! Nothing to say about the benefits of hugs, eh?! This can be a whole subject for another post! As well as cultivating positive feelings, it helps with the creation and release of oxytocin, the very well known hormone of love and connection, the hormone that help us in birthing our children.
It is said that for fully benefiting from a hug, it needs to be one that lasts at least 20 seconds, so the bodies can start to relax and open. By surrendering in this way, we can really connect and let the other in. In addition, when you hug, you could try doing it with your left arm on top and the right around the waist, in this way the hearts get together. Do you experience any difference?
8) FEEL GRATEFUL FOR WHAT YOU GIVE. Like Mother Theresa, she expressed her gratitude for the people she helped in the streets of Calcuta, because it enabled her to deepen and grow into her spirituality. This way of expressing gratitude is a very powerful way of cultivating gratitude, gratitude for what we give as opposed to what we receive.
Gratefulness changes everything, it can transform ordinary days in thanksgiving, turn routine jobs into into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. Gratitude is the root of joy. Be grateful, you’ll feel better!
Thank you for reading :)