“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.”
How can an attitude of gratitude help your health and happiness?
Cultivating a regular practice of gratitude can keep us healthier and happier. Studies have shown that keeping a gratitude journal increases our determination, attention, enthusiasm, optimism and energy levels. We see a greater improvement in exercise patterns, quality of sleep and lower levels of anxiety and depression.
When in a state of gratitude a brain scan shows us higher levels of activity in the hypothalamus which controls an assortment of essential bodily functions such as eating, drinking and sleeping. The hypothalamus also has a large influence on your metabolism and stress levels. Feelings of gratitude also directly activate the brains regions associated with neurotransmitter dopamine which feels good to get and is responsible for reward-driven learning. This means your brain becomes engaged in a virtuous cycle, looking for more things to be grateful for to receive a dose of dopamine again and again.
Every thought we have produces chemicals in the brain; negative thoughts produce chemicals which slow down the brain, reduce our brains productivity and may lead to depression. Positive thoughts produce chemicals in the brain that creates a sense of well being and allows the brain to function at peak capacity.
So what is gratitude?
Gratitude is a noun defined as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. Gratitude magnifies positive emotions and allows us to celebrate the present. It blocks negative emotions such as envy, resentment and regret. Gratitude is also a high thought vibration.
What is a high thought vibration?
Everything in our universe is made up of energy – different wavelengths vibrating at different frequencies. Our brain is a translator and also an emitter of these frequencies. Positive thoughts vibrate at a higher frequency which indicates a strong, positive and healthy thought. Thoughts that vibrate at a low level are typically negative, harmful or disempowering. The more attention you give a thought the stronger the vibration becomes thus becoming more stable and more able to attract other similar vibrations, hence why we want to have high vibrational thoughts. When you are operating with high vibrational thoughts your thinking is clear, positive and focused. People and situations react to you positively and you may experience more strokes of ‘good luck’. Operating with lower vibrational thoughts may have you feeling depressed, miserable and sorry for yourself and replaying past scenarios in your head. You may feel angry or fearful and people will not respond as positively to you and you may become a magnet for conflict.
“It is really important that you feel good. Because feeling good is what goes out as a signal into the Universe and starts to attract more of itself to you. So the more you can feel good, the more you will attract the things that help you feel good and that will keep bringing you up higher and higher”
How to Develop a Regular Practice of Gratitude
Robert Emmons, PhD, has a lot of exercises which are very helpful in cultivating gratitude:
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.
2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
8. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
9. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
10. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.
By: Glow Acupuncture and Wellness Center