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Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

Place your hand on your beating heart. Feel how each pump seeks to keep you alive and well. That’s your first reason to be grateful today – each morning. We will talk a lot about what we can be grateful for in this article but I don’t want you to ever forget how seamlessly everything inside you is working to ensure that you are healthy and alive. And even if you’re not in optimum health, I’m glad you’re here. Thank yourself for being here despite it all.

I’m sure you’ve been told to stay grateful for who you are and what you have and sometimes it can feel like such a cliché especially when life gives us so much to deal with. We’re still adjusting to living in a pandemic and some of us have lost loved ones, jobs, and hopes, and add that to the pains of adulting and parenting. It’s all so overwhelming sometimes. Can we remain grateful in the midst of chaos, grief, anxiety, loss, depression, and illnesses…?

Gratitude for me is not about diminishing what I’m going through or dismissing it in an effort to be thankful just for the sake of finding a silver lining where there isn’t. Gratitude to me is a companion. We walk side by side – holding hands but not always because let’s face it, it’s not easy to always be thankful. Our relationship is a huge work of love in progress and just like an ever-present friend, gratitude is always there when I need a lift-me-up or a reminder that everything will be alright.

I’d like to invite you to explore the three ways gratitude comes through as the companion we all need and why we should work on cultivating it.

  1. Healing: When it comes to health, gratitude is a wonderful booster! Studies have shown that gratitude is at the center of well-being and it is linked to greater empathy, forgiveness, willingness to help others, self-esteem, and the ability to recognize other people’s contributions to our success. It doesn’t stop there! Grateful people have better mental health, improved immunity, lower stress, and better resilience and they are more likely to live longer lives. Healing is beyond physical, of course! As we experience all the wonderful health benefits of gratitude, we become better people in the process who are pleasant to be around and whose relationships are also healthy. Gratitude reminds us what and who is truly important.

  2. Giving: - I know how mainstream and new age this may sound but, gratitude begets abundance! It’s true. The more grateful we are, the more we open ourselves to receiving more. Now, I’m not saying it’s a quick way to achieve more but it aids the process when done sincerely and mindfully. Abundance is not just about material things, it’s also about the intangibles that make life worth living and much easier like emotions of happiness and contentment. Gratitude helps cultivate these healthy emotions and the more you practice it, the easier it becomes to nurture them. It’s a gift that keeps on giving and what it brings is always good.

  3. Thriving: - A little science for you. Gratitude influences brain chemistry. It triggers the release of our happiness hormones known as dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine is what makes us feel good about ourselves. It’s a hormone that’s vital to the body’s movement, memory, behavior, attention, mood, and learning. A good dose of dopamine reduces the effects linked to anxiety, aggression, depression, mood swings, procrastination, low self-esteem, and dependency on unhealthy substances. Serotonin is our mood stabilizer hormone and it’s attributed to generating feelings of well-being and happiness. Without it, we are quite literally sad and depressive. It affects our moods, how we sleep, eat, and easily digest food, our bone health, the occurrence of blood clots, and regulates our sexual desire. The scarcity of serotonin results in anxiety, depression, anger issues, panic disorders, and obsessive-compulsive disorders.

If practicing gratitude activates both dopamine and serotonin, doesn’t that mean that the quality of our lives improves? Yes? Yes! This results in us thriving because our well-being is well taken care of.

How to get started with cultivating gratitude

  • Practice it in the present moment. Mindfulness is the act of using our attention intentionally and that’s exactly what gratitude needs. For you to sit with it currently, enough to hear yourself be thankful for all the good things around you. Gratitude isn’t about noticing the big events for us to be happy; it’s best built second by second as we breathe and live.

  • Raise your vibration to notice the smallest things like how the wind feels on your skin, how beautiful the sunrise is, how happy the sound of rain makes you, how peaceful your child looks when they sleep, and how a show has the ability to lift your moods, how free you feel when you have a meaningful conversation, how you accomplish things with ease…. it’s about the small things!

  • Keep a gratitude journal. Writing things down is a powerful practice. Not only can you come back to it later when you’re feeling low but it also helps you relive those moments in time when you were most grateful. It reminds you how far you’ve come and keeps you optimistic that you’ve had good days and the best is yet to come.

5 simple everyday gratitude prompts

  • What was the best thing that happened today?

  • I felt most proud of myself today for……

  • Who I’m I grateful for most today?.......because…….

  • I am grateful for my life as it is right now because of………

  • What is the one thing that I can learn from today’s events?

Here’s a Pinterest link to gratitude prompts you can use.

“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

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