Gratitude is more than saying thank you. It’s a sense of wonder, appreciation and thankfulness for life. Cultivating gratitude is about becoming aware of what is good and positive in your life right now. It is the habit of feeling and expressing thanks for all of the things in your life that you are grateful for. There is always something to be thankful for, no matter how big or small.
Scientific evidence that gratitude improves our health, comes from research accumulated by Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California. His studies have found that gratitude makes you healthier, smarter and more energetic. He noted that people who wrote a daily gratitude journal, reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy than those who didn’t.
The key to cultivating gratitude in your everyday life is appreciation, approval, admiration and attention in every part of your life.
Keep a Gratitude Journal – I find that one of the best ways to cultivate gratitude is to keep a journal. I keep it next to my bed and before going to sleep I write down all the things I have been grateful for during that day. During the long winter, on the days when the sun shines it features prominently in my journal! Keeping a gratitude journal helps me to identify the things that make me feel good so that I can incorporate more of these into my life, and it also helps me to adopt a more positive mind-set. By choosing to acknowledge everything that I am thankful for, I also have a lovely diary of happy memories and things in my life that I appreciate and this can be wonderful to read again during challenging times.
Create Gratitude Reminders – Write your favourite memories or experiences on cards and keep them in your wallet or handbag. Or use photos for example: your spouse, your sleeping child, a beautiful place in nature, a pet, an exciting trip, a special moment with a friend, etc.
Make a list of all the people in your life for whom you are grateful – Who has helped or supported you? Start with the easy ones, like family, friends, mentors, work colleagues and close advisors. Then let the list expand organically – great service, your health, staff at your favourite restaurant or coffee shop, the weather, delicious food and also include things like technology, heating, electricity, clean water, etc. Include absolutely anything that you are grateful for no matter how small it is. You will be amazed at how this makes you take notice of everything around you so much more and how it really does make you more mindful.
Appreciate yourself for all that you are and all that you do – Take a moment to look back and acknowledge how far you’ve come. Acknowledge your good traits, what you’ve accomplished, and the positive ways that you’ve grown. Recognise the ways in which you help and supports others too.
In researching the benefits of gratitude Dr Christiane Northrup says “practicing gratitude for as little as 15–20 seconds, can lower your stress hormone levels of cortisol and nor-epinephrine, relax your coronary arteries thus increasing the blood supply to your heart, deepen your breathing which increases the oxygen level of your tissues and it makes your heart rhythm become more harmonious, which positively affects your mood and all other bodily organs”.