In the United States, November is the month for focusing on gratitude as we prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday. Celebrating an abundant fall harvest is a common practice in many cultures, and with good reason. There are many documented benefits to approaching your life with gratitude. Those who do:
- Experience fewer aches and pains.
- Exercise more often and are more physically fit.
- Sleep more soundly.
- Expand their life expectancy by up to 7 years.
- Are more physically and mentally resilient.
- Have reduced rates of depression.
- Have greater empathy for others.
- Have increased self-esteem.
- Are more appreciative of others’ accomplishments.
- Have stronger and more satisfying relationships.
Taking a moment to reflect on the positive can have far-reaching effects on many facets of our lives. As Eckhart Tolle stated, “Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”
When you’re working to cultivate a habit of gratitude, it’s important to formulate a recipe tiny enough that you will feel capable of completing it even when your motivation is low. The simplest version might be:
“When my head hits the pillow, I will think of something that I’m grateful for.”
Consider, also, the timing of the habit. Beginning your day with gratitude can be a powerful way of adjusting your mindset so you are more aware and appreciative of the good things that happen as you go through your day. Gratitude at night is good for reflecting on your day and the positive things you’ve experienced, and can set the stage for contentment and restful sleep.
Expanding Your Habit
In our next blog post we’ll explore some ways to take your internal gratitude habit and make it external. For now, here are some suggestions on ways you can make an internal habit more powerful.
- Say it aloud. Thinking of something you are grateful for is an excellent start, and for some people it may be enough, but speaking a thought aloud makes it more concrete and more emotionally resonant. When I sit down to a meal, I will say one thing I am grateful for.
- Write it down. Like speaking the thought aloud, writing it down requires you to make the thought more defined. In addition, adding the physical movement of writing activates more of the brain and makes the thought more “sticky”. Writing also provides the added benefit of creating a log that you can look back on over time and reflect on the richness of your life. However, it does require a bit more time and available materials than a thought or spoken gratitude. When I get into bed, I will open my gratitude journal.
- Make it specific. Consider why you are grateful for each person or thing. Instead of simply listing that you are thankful for your spouse, expand the thought by including that you are thankful for your spouse because he made your favorite dinner or because she always puts her phone down when you’re talking. If you are grateful for the things in your life, consider what those things allow you to do, be, accomplish or experience. For example, you might be grateful for your car because it allows you to get to work or for your new tennis shoes because they enable you to run without pain.
Taking a moment to acknowledge the positive things in your life can color your entire day. When you choose to view your life through a lens of gratitude, you create a mindset that enables you to see the opportunity in a challenge and the many small blessings that are present in every day.