Over the Canadian Thanksgiving, I am reminded to reflect on the blessings in my life. It is (relatively) easy to practice gratitude on Thanksgiving. It’s discussed around the dinner table, on all the holiday displays and certainly the theme in all the yoga classes at most yoga studios. These moments of appreciation allow me to feel more relaxed, content and connected to a bigger energy in that moment. As Melody Beattie teaches “It turns what we have into enough”. If practicing Gratitude can change one moment, what about your life? When I am in tension, it is gratitude that pulls me out. Here are 10 benefits of a daily Gratitude practice:
- Reduce stress: People with higher levels of gratitude have lower levels of stress. The brain responds with reduced cortisol (the stress hormones) and increases in oxytocin (the “cuddle” hormone).
- Rebound: Recognizing what you are grateful for in challenging times has been found to increase feelings of resilience.
- Improved self-esteem: Studies have found that gratitude reduces social comparisons and resentments and increases appreciation of other’s accomplishments. Not only does one’s self esteem increase but, when you let go of comparisons and focus on your own self-worth and abilities, it leads to increased optimal performance…in whatever you are doing.
- Sleep better: Journaling on gratitude before going to sleep has been found to result in better and longer sleeps.
- Grow Empathy: People who practiced Gratitude were more sensitive and empathic towards other people. Empathy is critical in our world today to begin to heal relationships and create healthy connections.
- Better psychological health: Practicing appreciation and Gratitude reduces a variety of negative feelings including envy, resentment, frustration and regret and has been found to reduce depression.
- Healthier body: Grateful people experience fewer body pains and they report feeling healthier. In addition, people who practice gratitude are more likely to take care of their health and have regular wellbeing practices.
- Make new friends: A 2014 study published in Emotion found that thanking a new acquaintance makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. The next time you hold a door for someone, it may be the start of a. meaningful connection.
- Gratitude attracts more gratitude. The law of attraction teaches that when you focus on gratitude, you will find more things in your life to be grateful for.
- Gratitude leads to happiness – happiness does not lead to gratitude. Gratitude releases serotonin, the “feel-good” chemicals which increases feelings of joy and contentment.
A Gratitude practice is within all of our reach. It is a practice that can become a habit and way of life.
Here are a few suggestions for a daily Gratitude practice:
- Before getting out of Bed in the morning say Thank you for this day and whatever it might bring. Welcome it all. When we welcome it all, it all becomes a blessing. When we resist parts of our day, we lean out of Gratitude.
- During meals, take a few seconds to be thankful for the opportunity to have food and for all that were part of the journey of your food arriving on your plate (from the farmers, to the grocery store clerk and all the people in between who made it possible for you to have this food).
- During Meals also take a moment to thank the person who prepared your meal, including yourself.
- Throughout your day, look for acts of kindness (people holding doors for you, your colleague offering to take something off your to do list, a friend helping you pick up dropped items etc) and thank them with eye contact and a smile. Then, reciprocate, look for opportunities to help others throughout your day.
- Consider keeping a gratitude jar at home/work. Encourage all members to look for things that they appreciate and write little notes about things that they are grateful for from others each day. The notes get collected in the jar and once a month you can read them together.
- Try to take time daily in nature appreciating and looking for beauty (and it’s all beauty).
- When you are stuck in traffic/long lines, can you welcome this and see it gratefully as an opportunity to slow down.
- When you are bored be thankful that you have a few minutes to BE.
- Be in service – when you volunteer your time to help others with gratitude, you are the recipient of many more blessings.
- At bedtime, take a few moments to journal as you reflect on what you are grateful for this day.
Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is one of the simplest ways to increase your fulfillment with life. What are you grateful for today?
Diana Lockett is a writer, teacher, Yogini, Catalyst for Change, business and life coach and gratitude practitioner. She empowers Leaders (and we are all Leaders of our lives) to awaken to the beauty and potential in their lives with the clear understanding that “Life is happening FOR me”. She gets to practice gratitude daily with her coaching clients, her yoga students and her family. Diana is the founder of Angeli Yoga Teaching Academy (prayatiyoga.ca) and Co-Founder of the Elephant P-O-O Project (elephantpooproject.com)