The Gifts of Gratitude

Thornton Wilder

 

The gifts of gratitude are infinite.
I’m a huge fan of the G word and at times I may even exaggerate in my effort to “convert” everyone I come in contact with.  Having said that I’d like to bring your attention to this wonderful habit that can change your life for the better.  I assure you it works.  The world becomes a better place when you take the time to be grateful.

 

I often work with people who have trouble feeling connected, seen, understood, or accepted.  This can cause them to feel inadequate, unworthy, and as if they are not _________enough (feel free to fill in the blank).  Encouraging them to foster a habit of gratitude is often a first step which brings with it powerful results.

Being grateful is an attitude, a way to perceive life, and a tool that allows you to notice what is good in your life instead of what is wrongGratitude tips the scale in your favor. 

Recently scientists have begun to chart a course of research aimed at understanding gratitude and the circumstances in which it flourishes or diminishes. They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits, some of which include:

  •    Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
  •    Higher levels of positive emotions
  •    More joy, optimism and happiness
  •    Acting with more generosity and compassion
  •    Feeling less lonely and isolated

Gratitude opens the heart and activates positive emotion centers in the brain. Practicing gratitude regularly can change the way your neurons fire into more positive automatic patterns. The positive emotions educed can soothe distress and broaden your thinking patterns so you develop a larger and more expansive view of life.

Here are a few ways to cultivate gratitude in your life.  Mix and match as you please, create your own recipe, but begin today.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Start a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, kindnesses, blessings, and good you enjoy.  I make it a rule to write down at least 5 things I’m grateful for everyday. You may have days where coming up with one or two seems impossible but the daily practice will teach you and more preciously your brain to be on the look out for the good.  The more you practice the easier the exercise will become.

2. Remember What You Have Overcome. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.

3. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.

4. Use Your Senses. Through your senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—you gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.

5. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude.  Looking at my daughter works for me every time.

6. Make a Vow to be Grateful. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I promise to notice my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it frequently.

7. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. Try to focus on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.

8. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.

As you make gratitude a regular practice, and I do mean take time out of you schedule to slow down and appreciate the good in your life, you will notice that the positive emotions you experience during your practice will begin to permeate all aspects of daily life unintentionally and blissfully.

Here are some of my favorite quotes about gratitude to help inspire you and deepen your thinking about creating a lasting place for gratitude in your own life.

“Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.” – Marcel Proust

“Gratitude is when memory is stored in the heart and not in the mind.” – Lionel Hampton

“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” – Albert Einstein

“As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy 

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.” – Albert Schweitzer 

“Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.” – William Arthur Ward

“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero

“The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” – William James

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
 – Oprah Winfrey

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” – Epictetus

“Let us rise up and be thankful, for if we didn’t learn a lot today, at least we learned a little, and if we didn’t learn a little, at least we didn’t get sick, and if we got sick, at least we didn’t die; so, let us all be thankful.”- Buddha

Thank you for spending some time with me.  If you have questions please send them my way.

 

 

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