Accessing the Power of Gratitude

Accessing the Power of Gratitude

The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery. 

But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone, or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

There are many things to be grateful for: sunshiny days, colorful autumn leaves, friends who listen, chocolate, birds chirping, electricity, warm water, wi-fi, our health, family, butterflies. What’s on your list?

Some Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures on cardboard or piece of paper.
  •  Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine. 
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for your gratitude.

 

A Day For Giving Thanks

Today, many of us here in the United States are celebrating Thanksgiving, a national day of giving thanks. The Thanksgiving tradition originates from the landing of the Pilgrims in 1620 on the shores of Cape Cod Bay before permanently establishing a settlement in Plymouth, Massachusetts, USA.

William Bradford writes the following account of the first Thanksgiving in 1621, in the book Of Plymouth Plantation (Morison,90), “They began now to gather in the small harvest they had, and to fit up their houses and dwellings against winter, being all well and recovered in health and strength and had all things in good plenty… All the summer there was no want; and now began to come in store of fowl, as winter approached, of which this place did abound when they came first (but afterward decreased by degrees).”  

Over 200 years later,  during the time of the Civil War in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a federal holiday.

Thanksgiving is a time of reflection and a day for giving thanks for all things we have to be grateful for even in the toughest of times but why wait for a federal holiday to give thanks? Give thanks each day.

Gratitude is an amazing and simple concept yet often times get overlooked. There are many benefits to having a “gratitude attitude”. Gratitude makes us feel happier, improves, and opens more doors to relationships (and also shows good manners), improves physical and emotional health, and helps lifts our spirits even in the toughest times by reminding us of the positive things we have to be grateful for.

Here are 3 simple ways to incorporate gratitude into your daily practices: say a little thank you when you get up in the morning, tell someone how thankful you are for them, write down three things you are grateful for each night before going to sleep.

“Gratitude is expressed as a primary emotion. It is a state of mind translated by the brain into complementary neurochemistry that is secreted into the blood stream. The chemistry of gratitude energizes the body and releases a wave of euphoric sensation, a sense of harmony with all that is.”

Dr. Bruce Lipton

Why not make gratitude your default attitude? What are some of the things you are grateful for today? I would love to hear what you came up with. If you feel like sharing please drop a comment in the comment box below. 

May you find the beauty of gratitude held in each day. 

Work Cited:

Morison, S.E, editor.  Of Plymouth Plantation 1620-1647 William Bradford.  Alfred A. Knopf, 1952.