Gratitude Takes Practice
Earlier today, I was feeling scared and anxious. I have a bunch of work to do that I am not super psyched about, a difficult meeting scheduled for tomorrow, and I got a message from my doctor’s office that my bloodwork results are worrisome. I was not feeling grateful, but I needed gratitude more than ever!
In the past, when I was anxious and friends told me to write gratitude lists, I would get annoyed. First of all, my life was hard and I had nothing to be grateful for!!! And secondly, was some stupid list really going to help me solve my end-of-the-world problems?!
As it turns out, yes! (And this is based on scientific studies, and not just my own airy-fairy, new agey life experiences.) ;P Gratitude has been shown to improve physical and emotional health, and also foster better sleep and increased mental strength. Engaging in exercises such as writing gratitude lists or thank you notes can actually change our brains.
“Gratitude replenishes willpower. If there were a drug that did that, whoever patented that drug would be rich.”
Research “suggests that the more practice you give your brain at feeling and expressing gratitude, the more it adapts to this mindset — [almost like a] gratitude ‘muscle’ that can be exercised and strengthened . . . ” So just as with physical exercise or any other skill, we can become more adept at gratitude with frequent practice. “Gratitude is something that leads to much more sustainable forms of happiness, because it’s not based in that immediate gratification; it’s a frame of mind.”
When I write gratitude lists, I am reminded of all the good things I have going for me. The list doesn’t necessary solve all my problems, but I start to see that my situation isn’t as bad as I originally thought. More often than not, practicing gratitude helps feel more prepared to address my grievances in a rational, solution-oriented manner.
For the moment, I have acceptance around my health, workload, and impending meeting. I have contacted the doctor’s office to see if I can move up my follow up appointment from next week to this week. I am going to tackle my projects systematically, and meditate for strength and compassion to prepare for my difficult meeting tomorrow. This ability to shift my perspective has been instrumental for me in the past 2 years. I used to be anxious constantly, but these days I am far more chill and pleasant to be around . . . and to be!!!
Before you throw your hands in the air and throw in the towel (or a pity party for one), practice some gratitude! The exercises don’t have to be grand or profound; I often give write lists expressing thanks for good coffee, nice weather, or food in the fridge.
Start small, write a list of 5 things you are grateful for, and see how your mood improves!
Want more reputable resources on gratitude?
- A PRACTICAL GUIDE TO GRATITUDE (so you can see and think differently)
- Giving thanks can make you happier
- The Science Behind Gratitude (and How It Can Change Your Life)