Cultivating an attitude of gratitude
As the holidays approach, we are often reminded to take inventory of all the blessings we have in our lives. Our collective experience shows us what research has now proven, that being thankful and appreciative can have a positive impact on your own health and happiness, as well as those around you.
For many, the dinner table is a great place to reflect and reinforce our feelings of gratitude. It is where we gather to nurture both our bodies and our relationships. Whether it’s sharing food, laughter or life-changing conversations - it is a place where we tend to connect in the heart.
By creating stronger bonds in our relationships and finding kindness in others, we’re not just carving the Turkey and Ham, but we are also carving new “good mood” grooves into our brain. So, the question becomes - in this high-speed digital age, how do we stay in that space? How do we hold onto that peaceful “Attitude of Gratitude”, and does it really matter?
I have read over and over again in positive psychology research, from Martin Seligman - to Shawn Anchor: if there is a one-word answer to the secret of happiness, it is gratitude. Gratitude may just be the strongest tool in the kit when it comes to pulling ourselves and others out of a funk or rebooting a terrible blue mood. I love the blissful feeling of gratitude and have come to consider it a “State of Being” rather than a behavior or an attitude.
People who live in a state of gratitude have developed the ability to embody moment by moment, a sense of wonder and contentment - accepting things just as they are. And as they do so, they paradoxically seem to attract more and more blessings into their lives. Gratitude is naturally attractive. It has the power to turn challenges into possibilities, problems into solutions and losses into gains. It shifts our energy and expands our vision, allowing us to see what might normally be invisible with a limited attitude.
A grateful heart charges the soul and revitalizes the body. A wonderful practice to perform first thing in the morning even before you open up your eyes is to see and feel all the good things in your life. Honestly, just to wake up alive each morning is a tremendous honor. Sometimes, the best way to appreciate all of the good in our own world is to take a moment to bear witness to the situations of those who are suffering. Gratitude in the face of adversity can help us weather the storms, provide a greater perspective on the plight of others and strengthen social bonds. Could practicing gratitude help us live longer and better?
One of the most significant keys to longevity and well-being is the ability to acquire and maintain high-quality relationships. Gratitude is the glue that can bring people together as well as creating happiness from the inside out. From the time we learn how to talk, it seems that we are being told to remember to say “thank you.” As it turns out, our parents weren’t just teaching us manners; they were providing us with a tool for lasting happiness. People who express positivity, in general, are seen as friendlier, more competent and more likable —all of those are things that are good for your health.
It takes just a couple of minutes out of your day, but the results of an expression of gratitude last far longer for both you and the recipient. Case in point: last year, Google studied its employees’ biggest motivators. What the company found was surprising. The No. 1 thing Google employees value most is not increased compensation or stock, but recognition delivered in a personal, genuine way. The company’s engineers said they especially value peer-to-peer recognition. It has been my experience that recognition inspires appreciation, which inspires gratitude, and the circle is complete.
It’s easy to be grateful for the grand things in life, but to be appreciative for “all” things puts you in a powerful and harmonious place. You don’t have to wait for moments of gratitude to descend on you. You can consciously cultivate it through practice. No matter what is happening around us, we can choose to respond in a way that will help us learn and grow. When we pause to notice what we usually take for granted, a new world of possibilities opens up. It's as if we've changed the station instead of being stuck on our own little "drama channel."
Life is an abundant broadcasting system, just waiting for us to tune into its infinite varieties. As we turn our attention to the positive side through praise and appreciation, we bring ourselves into harmony with this giving frequency.
There seems to be a magnetic force that draws our awareness to the ever-present and expanding good. It’s as if our conscious and subconscious work diligently to focus only on those experiences that support our state of mind. Looking through the eyes of gratitude brings forth more things to be grateful for.
As we approach Christmas, we here at Regenrus invite you to join us as we deepen our gratitude using a variety of simple and effective practices that can open us to greater well-being throughout the year.
Here are a few proven tips for cultivating “Gratitude as a State of Being”
Breathe, & Breathe Deeply
Slow down! Stop, breathe - simply become conscious of your breathing. Did you know that breathing in deeply to the count of 6 - breathing out to the count of 6 - and continuing this for just a minute or two helps to align your autonomic nervous system? I invite you to try it (you have to breathe anyway - right?) and notice the sense of ease. We invite you to use this video as an exercise practice here.
Count Your Blessings
Fall asleep to your gratitude. Make a practice of writing down 3 positive things you are grateful for every night before you go to bed. Explain why each one makes you grateful. As my children were growing up, every day I would ask them “What was the best thing about today?” It didn’t matter what their answer was, it was about developing a pattern of focusing on what was good, what they could appreciate & experience gratitude for. Keeping a journal & a pen on the nightstand will serve as a reminder and help you establish this ritual. For the tech-savvy, there are gratitude apps you can get on your phone, such as Feed Your Happy & Gratitude Journal. Research shows that gratitude journaling can put you in a dramatically better mood, & even prolong that feeling for weeks and months the more you practice.
Share Your Heart
Write a letter to someone in your present or past to whom you’re grateful. Texting is quick and easy. In this digital era, receiving a handwritten letter that is thoughtful, sincere and authentic in its content is becoming a rare and treasured keepsake.
Show How Much You Care
Everyone appreciates a genuine thank you. Make it a point to end conversations or encounters you have during your day by looking people in the eyes, and offering a warm smile and sincere “thank you”—let them know you mean it. It’s amazing how much a single sincere compliment can impact a life. You’ll be able to sense their appreciation, and who knows, maybe you’ll inspire them to express their gratitude to someone else along the way.
Be Open to the New - Contrast Provides Clarity
Try a new experience on your own, or with the family and look for teachable moments: such as volunteering at a food bank or handing out gifts at a children’s hospital. Pay attention to the details and delight in the present moment. Let yourself get excited about little things. Look for tiny moments of joy, and notice those times when they spontaneously happen. It's often the little things, that become the big things in life, and great love is found in the smallest of details.
Personally, I love the blissful feeling of gratitude. I see it not as a behavior or even an attitude, but rather as a “State of Being.”
Gratitude focuses our attention on the good things in life. It takes our blessings and multiplies them. When we are genuinely appreciative of all that life has to offer, we see the light in ourselves and everyone else. We see everyone and everything as a potential blessing.
From the most simple moments - such as an early morning sunrise, a beautiful sunset or the pure joy in a child’s laughter, I remain in awe that no matter how fast or crazy this world seems, when I slow down enough, I realize that it’s all just made up of hundreds of thousands of “simple moments“ – most of which are pretty wonderful if I take the time to truly witness and appreciate them.
Chances are, if you choose to move through your days in a state of gratitude and express appreciation for the positive others bring to your life, you’ll discover the effects of gratitude go far beyond a simple smile. You can’t give good away – it always comes back.
Donna - Founding Leader of Regenrus