By Dr Seema Basil MD, www.mindpowermedicine.com
Gratitude, a feeling of thanks, is an essential practice for a larger life. It is a very simple tool to shift your focus from what is missing in your life, to all that you have been blessed with. When you express gratitude for what you have, you open the door to receive more. The power of gratitude was recognised by ancient civilisations and cultures and has been a cornerstone of most religious practices. But you don’t have to be a member of a faith organisation to benefit from practising gratitude.
A wealth of research has shown that regularly practising gratitude is associated with the following:
- Improved wellbeing. Feeling grateful has been shown to significantly reduce the risk of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety and substance abuse. People who practice gratitude are generally happier.
- Improved self-worth. People who are thankful have a high sense of self-worth. They experience greater satisfaction about their lives and feel a stronger sense of contribution and connectedness.
- Stronger relationships. Being grateful helps you focus on the positive aspects of a relationship rather than being fixated on what you think the other person is doing wrong and how you want them to change. Gratitude makes you more willing to forgive so there is less conflict.
- Increased Resilience. Focusing on reasons to be thankful helps to build emotional resilience. Having a bigger bank of positive emotional experiences creates an inner strength that makes it easier to navigate through difficult phases of life.
- Reduced stress. Creating a positive internal experience doesn’t leave much room for stress. It’s very hard for fear to enter the house where thanks lives.
- Improved Health. Gratitude has been found to stabilise blood pressure responses to stress and has been linked to the release of dopamine and possibly serotonin and oxytocin, all neurotransmitters in the brain that make us feel good. The overall effect of feeling good is better sleep, reduced stressful insults on the body and reduced inflammation which is the driver of chronic disease.
“Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously”. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Learning to be grateful is just like any other exercise. It may feel hard at first, but if you practice it consistently it becomes second nature. Even if you feel like nothing is going well for you, there is always something, no matter how small, that you can find to be thankful for. Here are my five simple tips to cultivate an attitude of gratitude.
- At the start or the end of each day, spend a few minutes thinking about what you are grateful for. Get a notebook and give written thanks for at least three things. Perhaps you had a delicious lunch, or someone made you a cup of tea. Maybe the weather was just perfect. Build on this over time by making your list longer and longer.
- Reflect back on your life and make a list of things that have worked out for you. Perhaps there were some strange coincides. Maybe you got a job you wanted, perhaps you found the love of your life, maybe you managed to get out of a damaging relationship, maybe something you really wanted was on sale and you got it at discount.
- Make a list of your strengths and qualities. Are you a good listener, do you have great eye sight? Can you run really fast? Do you give great hugs?
- Make a list of people for whom you are grateful, perhaps a family member or friend, a kind shop attendant, a teacher who took an interest in you, a tv personality who always makes you laugh, a writer whose books you love reading.
- Give thanks each day for your body. The eyes that let you see this wonderful world, the nose that can smell the rain, the ears that let you hear the laughter of children, the taste that brings you delight, the hands that let you touch, the feet that carry you step by step through life, the heart that lets you love, the 37 trillion cells in your body working around the clock carrying out the most intricate, complex processes without your knowledge or understanding, keeping you alive.
Once you become an expert at practicing gratitude, take it to the next level. When you start learning how to feel grateful for things that haven’t physically happened yet, you are calling them into your experience faster. You are showing the universe that you believe that things are on their way to you. All manifestation starts with thoughts.
Practice thinking about what you want. And then immerse yourself in the feeling of already living that reality. Feel your dreams coming true, watch a mental movie of your dream life, let your heart open right up, let yourself be moved with thanks that the universe is abundant and always ready to fulfil your deepest desires when you allow it.
“It’s a funny thing about life, once you begin to take note of the things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.” – Germany Kent