It’s been amazing to see my timeline filled with people expressing gratitude for what they have over the last week—using #GiveThanks. I keep thinking – what would happen if everyone expressed gratitude every day for a year? I know, everyone says “be grateful”; have you ever wondered why? I’m no scientist; I only know what happened when I put this practice to the test. Long ago, when I was on a mission to create self-love and attract my soul mate, I bought a gratitude journal. I had heard about the benefits of daily gratitude, and I wanted to find ways to create more joy in my life. Being a parent ain’t for the weak, even if you have a partner (which I did not). And I found myself being overwhelmed, worried, and lonely most of the time. I found when I thought about and focused on the hard work I was doing, the lack of sleep I was getting, and worrying about every little detail and whether or not I was doing a good job, my stress level on a scale of 1-10 was 97, and my joy level was -30. So I started writing three things I was grateful for each morning before I got out of bed and started my daily circus.
I didn’t see any immediate results. I was annoyed at spending the time, adding one more thing to to-do list for the day. It took a while to make this a habit. But after many failed attempts to make this a daily practice, and just trying again in the morning, I started to notice myself thinking more about the things going right in my life. I found myself enjoying the time doing mundane things as a busy single mom just slightly more. And I eventually got into the habit of writing almost every morning because I enjoyed it so much. I’d hardly ever stop at three things. Some mornings I would just write and write. I still do. And on the days that I miss? It’s like forgetting your deodorant. You’ll live, but your day might have been more pleasant with it. (for everyone)
When we express gratitude, focus on all the love and abundance we have currently in our life right now, we create and attract more love and abundance into our lives. You will always find that which you actively seek! It’s like when you buy a new car, somehow every other car on the road is exactly like yours? They were there the whole time, but you weren’t looking for them before. Seeing and noticing love, blessings, and miracles actually attracts more love, blessings, and miracles. Conversely, if you focus on what you don’t have (a husband, a partner, a million bucks), then you focus on everything you don’t have and create more of that: lack.
What is gratitude and why does it work? I found some experts:
From “Why Gratitude is good” article (see source below)
Definition of gratitude:
First, it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received. This doesn’t mean that life is perfect; it doesn’t ignore complaints, burdens, and hassles. But when we look at life as a whole, gratitude encourages us to identify some amount of goodness in our life.
The second part of gratitude is figuring out where that goodness comes from. We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.
One of my favorite definitions is: “Gratitude is not a trick of positive thinking. Gratitude is a choice we make to simply acknowledge the truth about what we have, which greatly amplifies our enjoyment of everything we receive.” -Greg Baer
The science behind expressing gratitude
Robert Emmons, the world’s leading expert on the science behind gratitude, has been studying for years what an impact it can have on someone. His article “Why Gratitude Is Good” in UC Berkley’s Greater Good Magazine sums up an overview of his findings throughout the years. Take a look at an overview of crazy benefits that come from people practicing and expressing gratitude on a regular basis:
- Stronger immune systems
- Less bothered by aches and pains
- Lower blood pressure
- Exercise more and take better care of their health
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed upon waking
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert, alive, and awake
- More joy and pleasure
- More optimism and happiness
- More helpful, generous, and compassionate
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Feel less lonely and isolated.
One study from Dr. Martin E. P. Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania asked subjects “to write and personally deliver a letter of gratitude to someone who had never been properly thanked for his or her kindness.” Immediately after participants reported huge increases in their happiness levels.
Another study, directed by Dr. Robert Emmons again, found that “those who wrote about gratitude were more optimistic and felt better about their lives” after a week of keeping a gratitude journal. Dr. Joshua Brown and Dr. Joel Wong of UC Berkley found similar results in their study directed toward those struggling with mental health issues.
“Gratitude letter writing produces better mental health by shifting one’s attention away from toxic emotions, such as resentment and envy. When you write about how grateful you are to others and how much other people have blessed your life, it might become considerably harder for you to ruminate on your negative experiences.”
For such a small thing, it’s big. It literally helps us feel better ALL around. It changes our brain chemistry, helps our body function better, improves our relationships, and it’s a practice that has changed my life.
What can I do?
Starting is easy! The simplest step you can take is starting some form of a gratitude journal. Carve out time in the morning or evening to write down at least 3 things you are grateful for. I’m a personal fan of doing it in the morning in my Create Love Today Journal—when you take that time early in the day before your crazy schedule sets in and sets you up to notice all the good things happening throughout the rest of your day.
Other ideas on how to express gratitude daily could be
- Writing a thank you note/letter and delivering it
- Counting your blessings mentally all day long as things pop up
- Sending a text to someone you appreciate
- Focusing on gratitude while meditating or praying
- Committing to not complain on social media, using your platform to spread good news! God knows we could all use a little more good news
- Talk about what you’re grateful for at the dinner table
Think about tomorrow, well, tomorrow!
Finding one thing I can to just for today really helps me. Just practice today.
I love small, quantifiable goals. You take something big like “I want to feel better and create more joy” and break it down into one teeny tiny action. Commit to one thing you can do to today. If writing it in a journal makes you cringe, put it in your notes in your phone. One thing today. That’s it! Then try that again tomorrow. Nothing happens overnight, in a week, or even a month. But little by little you keep shifting your brain from what you lack to what you have, and miracles happen.
Wishing you all the best and a very happy holiday season,
From Berkley University: “How Gratitude Changes You and Your Brain”
From Harvard: “Giving thanks can make you happier”