Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation for the goodness that a person receives and/or experiences.

From a young age, we are taught to say thank you, out of politeness. Yet, it can become so commonplace, we do it automatically without feeling or connection.

Add to that when life gets hard, we tend to focus on what is going wrong in life, we complain about our problems and lose sight of any goodness that is showing up.

However, the practice of being grateful helps us connect with our own self-worth, the value of others and resources beyond us, even a higher power.

I first heard about having a gratitude practice, when I read “Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy” by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I can’t remember when I bought this book but I can remember the profound effect that her suggestion of keeping a gratitude journal had on me.

My husband and I were both going through a really stressful time, with each other, with our business and with life in general. We were complaining a lot, we were stressed and easily frustrated and irritable. I suggested we both try keeping a gratitude journal. I mean, I said, what have we got to lose?

So we bought fresh notebooks and kept them beside our bed. Each night before we went to sleep we would remind each other to write down 5 things that we were grateful for that day. It was never mind blowingly amazing. In fact most days it was simple things like a the sun on my face, a walk in the park or a text message from a friend. Other times it was going to a movie, dinner at a restaurant or creating some photos that I loved. Some days, one of us would be struggling, so with encouragement and support, we helped each other find some things to be grateful for.

We did this daily practice for over 6 months and we were so surprised to see how much our moods improved, our stress levels decreased and our relationship strengthened.

I became a convert to daily gratitude practice. Although I am not consistent enough. And it shows. I am less resilient when I focus on what is going wrong in my life rather than what is going right.

Research

Researchers in the field of positive psychology have demonstrated a link between practising gratitude and increased sense of wellbeing. They have demonstrated that regularly practising gratitude shifts our attention from negative thoughts and emotions. So practising gratitude can reduce the impact of anxiety, depression and stress.

Significantly, they also found that being grateful boosts optimism, strengthens the immune system and creates stronger relationships. When express gratitude to others we strengthen our connections building more fulfilling and positive relationships.

It is also based on science and evidence. People who tend to be more grateful have more brain activity in their medial prefrontal cortex, the area associated with learning and decision making.

So how can we incorporate gratitude into our daily life. We have created a simple handout to remind you of 5 ways to cultivate gratitude.

  1. Write a letter / email / note / send a gift to say Thank You. Being conscious in our appreciation of others is a beautiful way to build and strengthen relationships.

 

  1. Keep a Gratitude Journal & record 3 things you are grateful for every day. I suggest doing this every evening as you go to bed, but some people like to start the day with this practice. Do what works for you.

 

  1. Imagine thanking a person from your past who was very helpful / changed your life for the better The founding father of positive psychology, Martin Seligman, recommends this practice. It links with the power of visualising. He then takes it another step and suggests writing a letter of thanks and hand delivering the testimonial to the person from your past.

 

  1. Meditate and pay attention to those things that are going well in your life, however small. Jack Kornfield says Buddhist monks begin each day with a chant of gratitude for the blessings of their life. Native American elders begin each ceremony with grateful prayers to mother earth and father sky, to the four directions, to the animal, plant, and mineral brothers and sisters who share our earth and support our life. In Tibet, the monks and nuns even offer prayers of gratitude for the suffering they have been given.” Meditation and mindfulness is a way of coming into the present and having a gentle focus on what is going well in your life, even the warmth of the sun or the sound of the rain can help create an improved sense of wellbeing.

 

  1. Consciously express thankfulness when you receive a compliment, good service, or just a smile. For those of us for whom receiving praise is hard, this is a practice to encourage you to acknowledge the generosity of the giver and recognise the gift of inclusion and acceptance they are offering.

 

  1. Praise Walk Bill Plotkin, in his book Wild Mind, invites us to take a daily Praise Walk where we pay attention to and acknowledge the beauty of nature. Adding a process of giving thanks, this is another gratitude practice.

 It is incredible how such a simple act of paying attention to what is good in our life and recognising the source of goodness as outside ourselves can have a ripple effect on many aspects of our lives.

Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness.

It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.

Amy Collette

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