An interesting thing happened to me right at the start of fall (my favorite season). I was home one afternoon, when I decided to open my back door to let some fresh air in. This was a particularly special day in Arizona. There was a slight breeze with the scent of Fall in the air. If you’ve ever been to Arizona, you know our weather doesn’t actually cool down to fall temperatures until sometime in November…and even then, we are still sitting around 80-90 degrees. This particular day was the last week in September. As I sat in my rocking chair next to the screen door, I breathed it in. This feeling of love, joy and gratitude overcame me like I’ve never experienced before. All of a sudden, I saw my life differently. No longer burdened by life’s unexpected trials, I began to focus on gratitude.
Days past, and I was still in this state of joy and gratitude. In the back of my mind, a nagging voice would say “this feeling wont last. It can’t”. For a split second, that would make me sad, but then I thought about my life again…my beautiful children whom I love fiercely. My husband whom I couldn’t adore more. My tiny 1300 sq ft home which would be considered a mansion in other countries, my old Jeep which has been very reliable and is almost paid off. I went on and on like this every day. Counting and recounting in my head the things I was grateful for. My attitude had changed. I felt a deeper love for my neighbors, friends and family members. I looked for opportunities to serve them. And guess what? While the first of fall high has fizzled a bit, the feelings of complete joy and gratitude have remained. My days have been brighter and happier by focusing on this one little thing…gratitude.
It’s a skill really to develop and attitude of gratitude. Did you catch what I did to develop it? When the nagging voice would tell me the feeling of happiness wouldn’t last…even examples of life’s problems would pop in my head, I would quickly change that thought to focus on the things I was grateful for. It’s not easy changing thoughts, but once you do, your feelings change too. Isn’t it interesting how our thoughts control our feelings?
In my study on gratitude I learned how deeply connected to our health it actually is. Let me provide a list for you of all the benefits of gratitude.
According to Forbes magazine, gratitude can:
*Open the door to bettter and more relationships.
*Improves overall health (studies show fewer aches and pains in grateful people)
*Gratitude improves phsycological health (it reduces a multitude of toxic emotions)
*Improves Sleep (writing grateful thoughts in a journal 15 at night can lead to better sleep quality)
*Increases mental strength
That all sounds pretty good right?
Another study done by the huffington post states:
*Gratitude improves mental health in teens
*It’s been linked to better grades and higher GPA’s.
*It benefits the heart
*It’s good for team morale
*It’s been linked with a better immune system
*It protects you from negative emotions that come with extreme loss (like a death or health related issue)
Q: All these things are good and wonderful, but how do I develop gratitude when my life feels stressful and disappointing?
A: Just as you exercise your body, you can exercise your mind to view the world in new ways. Gratitude is like “superfood” for the soul, and all it takes is a few minutes each week to cultivate it!
1. For one week make a list of things you are grateful for each morning when you wake up. People in your life who’ve helped you in some small way, places you’ve been, things your happy to have (a bed to sleep on, food to eat, clothes to wear etc..) Keep this list where you’ll see it daily. Challenge yourself to add to it, and watch your gratitude expand and grow!
2. Dig deeper into the “Why” behind your gratitude. Example: I am grateful for my bed because it helps me get deep, restorative sleep which allows me to be alert and focused the next day. Try this one..I am grateful for Vegetables and fruits that help heal and nourish my body, keeping me healthy and strong.
3. Write a gratitude letter or email to a friend or family member. Be authentic. Both of you will benefit from this exercise.
4. Create a gratitude challenge such as GIVING UP COMPLAINING or expressing gratitude to your partner or spouse each day for a week. It will probably shock both of you but the results are amazing.
5. Volunteer your time to a group or cause. Go to.justserve.org to find what’s going on in your neck of the woods! There are many projects out there. You might just find a new hobby. I can’t think of anything that brings more joy and gratitude than serving others.
6. Break down your barriers to receive other peoples’ praise. If someone pays you a compliment, just say “Thank you”. We often have a hard time accepting compliments. I suggest breaking down that wall and learn to allow and accept compliments as they come.
I personally think one of the coolest things gratitude can do for us, is to overcome the “victim mentality” and sense of entitlement. As we do this, we step outside ourselves and start living the life, we were meant to live!
What are you grateful for today? How will you cultivate gratitude in your own life?
💗Health Coach Heather