"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend." - Melody Beattie
Our days are busy. And it's easy to spend each one rushing from one thing to the next, filling the in-between moments with mindless scrolling or mental to-do lists. When life is hectic, we tend to focus on lack: what we don’t have, what isn’t working, and so on. Plus, the tough stuff of life can so easily spiral from a bad day to a hard week to overall feeling low and disappointed in where life has us.
However, if we choose to see it, our days are also overflowing with goodness, splitting little seams of blessings literally all day long. You can ignore these moments, or you can collect them, savor them and say thank you for them! Though we don’t get to choose our circumstances, we do get to choose our outlook.
Read on for three reasons to practice gratitude, plus tips for incorporating it into your daily wellness practice.
featured image by claire huntsberger
image by kristen kilpatrick
Studies have shown that the practice of gratitude is a major stress buster. It actually reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from resentment and envy to regret and frustration. Robert Emmons, a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research shows that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression. Additionally, grateful people experience fewer aches and pains and report feeling healthier and getting better sleep. Surprising connections have also been made with how well our food is digested relative to our attitude (i.e. thinking “I am healthy, vibrant and my body is able to perfectly handle what’s asked of it. I love my body just as it is and am so thankful for how hard it works” equals better digestion!).
Take a deep breath and notice what’s around you – the sights and scents and sounds. What stands out to you? What’s bringing you joy in that moment? Often bringing our awareness into the space right around us brings up multiple things to be thankful for (as I’m typing this, I’m looking around me and feeling so thankful for clean water in my water bottle, a healthy baby in my tummy, a beautiful and inspiring space to work in etc.).
image by kate lesueur
When you’re sitting there thinking about all the things you’re thankful for and how blessed you are, it’s really hard to be overwhelmed with jealousy at someone else’s success. Anytime I’m feeling less than or I start to be bitten by the comparison bug, rather than moving into the mental “why I’m actually better than her” game (anyone else?) I try and step back and think of three to five things I’m grateful for. It works for job, relationship, financial, material comparison and more!
How many of us have been caught emersed in our phones or planning out that email in our head only to come to and realize we were missing out on what was happening around us? Instead of instantly scrolling on my phone when I’m waiting in line somewhere or sitting at the doctor’s office, I like to intentionally set my phone aside, take a deep breath and start listing in my mind the things that I’m grateful for or that are especially bringing me joy that day. It’s usually just a few minutes of productivity “sacrificed” for something that is actually way more valuable and connective. Even that little bit of time reaps major benefits in my overall attitude and frame of mind. It's a great trick to use when you're feeling especially anxious or stressed!
Growing up, my mom gave each of my siblings and I a special journal just for things we were thankful for and we were expected to write at least one thing down daily. While it's something we rolled our eyes at then, it's stuck with me and has been such a positive practice in my life - especially in hard seasons. In case you're unfamiliar, the basics of gratitude journaling are super simple. Every day or so, or whenever you think of it, write down a few things that you're thankful for. There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to what you write down - it can be everything from your family to the person that let you go ahead in line at the grocery store. Over time, the habit of giving name to all the good things in your life reduces stress and produces a more positive outlook!
image via thereporthair
Think of one person who’s made a positive difference in your life. Whether a mentor, professor, friend or an inspiring boss, we all have people in our lives who have shaped us for the better. When we express our thanks (especially when we get specific) we actually introduce positivity into our environment and spread those good vibes to other people. Gertrude Stein once wrote, “Silent gratitude isn’t very much to anyone.” Telling a person outright what they mean to you or writing a note goes a long way and blesses you and the other person!