Over the last few months, we've all gone through stages. Stages of grief, acceptance, frustration, fear. I have found that when I allow myself to focus on the negative, the dark, I forget about how much light there is in my life. I have found that actively practicing gratitude has helped my mood immensely. I have always been someone who is grateful for what she has, but I have found it even more important lately to practice gratitude.
When I forget to be grateful, I focus on my husband leaving his clothes on the bathroom floor instead of reminding myself that he serves me coffee every morning. I focus on the messes my kids make instead of on the memories they made. I focus on the things I didn't get done instead of the things I did.
At the very beginning of this pandemic, I quickly realized that if I wasn't being actively grateful for the things I DO have, I could easily fall into this hole of self-despair and woe-is-me. And honestly, that's not a place I really wanted to be. So throughout the day, I found ways to stop and be grateful for something.
I chatted with Dr. Erika Velez of The Mindful Corner, who gave me some really interesting information. Robert Emmons is considered the world's leading expert on gratitude, and he says that gratitude has two important components. The first is that gratitude is an affirmation of good things in the world. In the second, we recognize that the things we are grateful for exist outside of ourselves. We acknowledge that God and other people give us gifts both big and small to help us achieve the goodness in our lives. Gratitude is a source of strengthening relationships because it requires us to see how other people have been able to support and affirm us.
Emmons found that people who practice gratitude consistently report many benefits. Physically they can have stronger immune systems, can be less bothered by aches and pains, can have lower blood pressure, exercise more and take better care of their health, and sleep better. Psychological benefits include higher levels of positive emotions, more alert, more joy and pleasure, and more optimism and happiness. Social benefits of practicing gratitude include being more helpful, generous and compassionate, forgiving, outgoing, and feeling less lonely and isolated.
Practicing gratitude is something that requires mindfulness and intention, so while sometimes it may seem like I am just doing something to check it off a list, it is done intentionally and to build it into my routine so it becomes a natural practice. Because I have seen firsthand some of the benefits listed by Emmons above, I want to continue to be consistent in this practice.
Some simple ways I practice gratitude:
And there you have it - 5 simple ways to practice gratitude daily. It doesn't have to be a complicated process. Just make the intention to do it, and you will find yourself finding more ways to be thankful each and every day.
Let me know in the comments, how do you practice gratitude?
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