Got Gratitude?

Expressing gratitude on a daily basis is an easy way to focus on the positive and not the negative, which in turn will make you feel better. Research shows that practicing gratitude on a daily basis not only helps us recognize and accentuate the positive and minimize the negative, but it also helps our physical and emotional health on a biological level.  According to research at Institute of Heart Math (IHM), true feelings of gratitude, appreciation, and other positive emotions can synchronize brain and heart rhythms, creating a bodywide shift to a scientifically measurable state called coherence. In this optimal state, the body’s systems function more efficiently, generating a greater balance of emotions and increased mental clarity and brain function.1

In a recent article “How Gratitude Can Help You Through Hard Times” that was published in a newsletter of The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Dr.Robert Emmons writes that an attitude of gratitude can be nurtured. He believes that there is a difference, however, between feeling grateful and being grateful.  Compared with feeling grateful, being grateful “is a choice, a prevailing attitude that endures and is relatively immune to the gains and losses that flow in and out of our lives.   When disaster strikes, gratitude provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances. “  This practice and mindset will then increase our resiliency which in turn helps us better cope with crisis.

So how do we accomplish this?  One way is to keep a gratitude journal you can write in it anytime you want,  but finding something to be grateful for in the morning when you get up and something that you’re grateful for at night before you go to bed are excellent ways to improve your mental and emotional health.  A different take on this exercise is to list the letters of the alphabet in a vertical column on the left-hand side of the page and then write down next to something you are grateful for that begins with that letter. This exercise will really help you identify many different things to be thankful for. Lastly, you could keep a gratitude jar. It can be any kind of container that you fill with little notes identifying what you are thankful for…you can add them whenever you like and take them out and read them when you need a reminder!  Another way to strengthen your gratitude practice is to engage in expressions of gratitude:  saying thank you creates a positive feedback loop for both you and the other person, helping to build resiliency in both of you!  Engaging in a “gratitude practice” can help you recognize that even with all the obstacles, challenges, and struggles you may face, there are many more reasons to be thankful and to express gratitude everyday!