The Power of Gratitude
Around the world, scientists are realizing that gratitude has serious psychological and physical health benefits. Harvard researchers have found that being grateful helps people connect to something larger than themselves, elicits more positive emotions and can help people improve their mental and physical health. Berkeley researchers are digging into the physiology of how gratitude works to improve our mental health.
So, what does this research on gratitude mean for you?
Gratitude is a powerful way to change your perspective on life. It can help you find meaning and purpose, increase your psychological well-being, and lead you to making positive decisions that impact your physical well-being. It also allows you to interrupt your negative emotions long enough for you to pause and replace them with something positive.
When you are working on changing your story, gratitude is a key player in taking control and designing a life you love.
Gratitude is a skill that must be practiced daily
The ability to find and feel true gratitude is the ultimate mind hack. It is a powerful tool—one that can be learned.
Just as you can train your mind to assign empowering meanings to life’s events and you can train your mind to frame things in a positive, powerful perspective, you can also train your mind to operate from a place of gratitude.
However, you must practice gratitude consistently to see its benefits. This means a daily practice of taking time to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate what is good in your life, and training yourself to find the good in events or circumstances that may feel negative in this moment but ultimately can help you grow or learn.
Three tips for your gratitude practice
Building your capacity for gratitude isn’t difficult, it just takes practice. You may have to begin your gratitude practice with a lot of intention, but it will eventually become second nature. The more you can focus your attention on the things you have, the more things you’ll notice to be grateful for!
Here are a few ways you can implement a gratitude practice today:
- Simply observe - You can start a gratitude practice right now by naming three things you’re grateful for. You may want to start by looking around the room. Do you have a roof over your head? A bed to sleep in? Blankets to keep you warm? Do you have electricity? Running water? Observe and feel grateful. Then, you can go deeper by reflecting on relationships in your life, lessons learned through experiences and progress you’ve made on goals. For many people, an observational gratitude practice happens through meditation.
- Start a gratitude journal - Grab a piece of paper or start a new Google Doc and start writing what you are grateful for. You may want to challenge yourself to add three things to this list every day.
- Share with someone - Expressing gratitude can strengthen your relationships and draw in people who are also on a path to personal growth. This may look like a quick phone call every morning, sharing your gratitudes with your partner, or posting on your social media.
Finding gratitude in the good
It’s relatively easy to be grateful for the good in your life. You can likely recall moments with friends or family and be grateful for the memories. You may be able to look around you and be grateful for the items you have that make your life easier, or keepsakes that bring back happy memories.
Finding gratitude in the good is a great place to start. Your next step will be finding gratitude in challenging situations or events.
Finding gratitude in challenging situations
Feeling grateful helps you take back your power in situations that you can’t control or wish you weren’t in. It interrupts whatever negative emotion you’re experiencing long enough to help you shift your perspective and fuel your strength to persevere.
Have you ever noticed that when you allow yourself to feel truly grateful about something, you cannot simultaneously feel angry, anxious, fearful, worried, or frustrated?
Go ahead—try it. Think of something for which you are truly and deeply grateful. Put yourself back in that beautiful moment. Notice how you feel. Notice the warmth. Notice the sense of peace. Notice the love. Notice the joy. Notice the appreciation. Of course, you can feel anger, worry, fear, or frustration before and after you feel grateful, but negative emotions are impossible to feel at the same time as gratitude.
Therefore, it is incredibly powerful to acknowledge your gratitude for situations that help you grow or develop. It also helps you change the story that you tell yourself about an event.
Here is one of my personal examples of how I leveraged gratitude to reframe a negative event in my life:
I’ve spent the better part of two decades living in and out of hospitals, fighting for my life. At one point, I grew tired of the pain, tired of the struggle, and tired of the constant fight to survive. I was giving up. I had had enough. I was done fighting the doctors’ death deadlines.
Then one day, everything changed. It was a day I had to go have another excruciating test. When it was time for me to go for testing, the porter came to get me from my room and wheeled my wheelchair down hallways that he had never taken me through before.
He wheeled me through the hallways of the area in the hospital where everyone was either paralyzed from the neck down and on a ventilator, or in a coma and on a ventilator. I looked into room after room and realized that any one of those patients would give anything to feel the pain I was feeling.
In an instant, I realized that my pain was an incredible blessing, and that I was so lucky to be able to feel it travel around my body. In that moment, I made a choice to once again take control of my life. I thanked God that I still had nerves that were connected and synapses that were firing as they should. What a gift! I turned my pity-party into gratitude and my weariness became resolve. I became flooded with gratitude for my body and all it provided me.
It is so important to be grateful for everything that happens around you (yes - the good and the bad!). By training yourself to find the good in every situation and feel grateful for both blessings and lessons, you shift your experience of life. In my situation, I still had nerves that were connected - what a blessing!
Gratitude will lead you to a life you love
Changing your meaning takes practice. Changing your perspective takes practice. And living in gratitude takes practice. You can change your meaning and perspective through a consistent gratitude practice, and you can start today!
Remember that it is powerful to be grateful for the experiences you’ve had, and for the outcomes that you desire. The more work you do in your gratitude practice, the stronger it will be. It’s like any other skill you’ve honed in your life. You can do it!
Your life is yours to create. As you dive into your gratitude practice, I recommend listening to this free 28 minutes audio recording. In it, I share how you can shift your perspective, create an empowering narrative, and harness the power of gratitude. With these skills, you CAN become the designer of your destiny!