Part of being a fully enlivened woman is to walk in gratitude.
That doesn’t mean that we deny feeling our pain and disappointment through life’s challenges and heartbreaks.
It doesn’t mean that we never have moments of mild depression or even anger about the things or circumstances we are not grateful about in our lives. But walking in gratitude means we have a baseline of contentment that is fully supported by all that we are grateful for in our lives.
This baseline of gratitude is what will buoy us when things are not looking so rosy in our lives.
Benefits of Gratitude
Studies have shown the benefits of practicing gratitude have an enormous impact on our everyday lives. Research by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, have found that people who consciously focus on gratitude experience greater emotional wellbeing and physical health than those who don’t. In comparison with control groups, those who cultivated a grateful outlook:
- Felt better about their lives as a whole
- Experienced greater levels of joy and happiness
- Felt optimistic about the future
- Got sick less often
- Exercised more regularly
- Had more energy, enthusiasm, determination, and focus
- Slept better and awoke feeling refreshed
- Felt stronger during trying times
- Enjoyed closer family ties
- Experience fewer symptoms of stress
- Why we need to practice gratitude
Psychologists have observed that humans have what is called a negative bias, that is, we tend to focus on negative experience more than we do on positive ones. It is theorized that since the beginning of humanity this negative bias may have been our most important survival skill in being able to avoid danger. The brain developed systems that would make it unavoidable for us not to notice danger and thus, hopefully respond to it.
Because of this built-in human bias, we need to practice and develop the habit of focusing on the positive. And there is no faster way to gain positive feeling and thoughts than by consciously practicing gratitude. And the more we practice, the more automatic and easy it becomes.
How to Practice
An easy way to practice gratitude is to take a few minutes throughout the day to notice and reflect upon the things we are thankful for. Even better is to keep a gratitude journal. They could be seemingly small or simple things. We can be thankful that we have food to eat, a warm and soft bed to sleep in each night. I would venture to bet that everyone reading this post has a least one person in their life that loves them, and probably a lot more than one. We can acknowledge and be grateful for the physical abilities we often take for granted such as being able to see, hear, speak, and walk. See how easy it is to find “small” things to be grateful for.
Since ancient times, philosophers and sages from every spiritual tradition have taught that cultivating gratitude is a key to experiencing deeper levels of happiness, fulfillment, and wellbeing.
One of the earliest advocates of a daily gratitude practice was Dutch philosopher Rabbi Baruch Spinoza. In the seventeenth century, he suggested that each day for a month, we ask ourselves the following three questions:
- Who or what inspired me today?
- What brought me happiness today?
- What brought me comfort and deep peace today?
This practice, wrote Spinoza, would help us find more meaning and joy in our lives and would lead to profound inner transformation.
Take the one-week Attitude of Gratitude challenge
Each day for one week write down five things you are grateful for. Try to find five new things each day. And let at least one of those things be something about yourself that you are grateful for. Start now by listing your first five things in the comments below.
Here are mine for today:
- I am grateful for the plant medicine-making program my attends that is helping her cultivate a deeper connection with the earth.
- I am grateful for mother who always listens when I can call with my struggles and frustrations.
- I am grateful for the beautiful yellow squash that I harvested from my garden and will enjoy tonight for dinner.
- I am grateful that I have a home office to work in.
- I am grateful to myself for having the courage to submit an article to Elephant Journal for publication.
Now it’s your turn! Share in the comments below what you are grateful for today.