Thankfulness is the theme of this month, and feeling appreciation is one of the best emotions you can experience. Focusing on all you have instead of what you lack helps enhance your well-being, creating more happiness, optimism, and better health. And the more you appreciate, the more you receive.
Gratitude has got me through the rough times in my life. When I search for what is going right in my life, instead of focusing on what is wrong, I lessen my stress and discover better solutions to overcome my problems.
According to the University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Magazine, gratitude has many health benefits. “It strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, and makes us less bothered by aches and pains. Grateful people get more hours of sleep each night, spend less time awake before falling asleep, and feel more refreshed upon awakening.”
I just read an article in Oprah Quarterly, Can You Thank Your Way to Better Health? which discusses how gratitude can benefit the body. “I see patients on the precipice of life and death, and it’s those who have a sense of gratitude, purpose, and positivity about their life that get through things,” says Anuradha Lala-Trindade, MD, cardiologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City who specializes in heart function, failure, and transplantation. She says, “It allows them to focus on the journey rather than the problem, and on what’s working in their body rather than what’s not. Studies show that kind of outlook can impact the biology of your cells and how you respond to illness.”
The article continues to state, “From imaging scans, we know that gratitude turns off neurological pathways in the brain that are associated with bitterness, indignation, hostility, and the like,” states Stephen G. Post, PhD, at Stony Brook University. Stress increases inflammation, and inflammation is the beginning of disease. “So if you can move someone into gratitude and turn off some of those neurological pathways associated with negative emotions, you can do them a lot of good,” states Post.
So how do you find gratitude?
- Seek gratitude! When you look for something to be grateful for, you will find it.
- Be in the present moment. This really increases your chances of finding gratitude because you are seeing what is right in front of you instead of worrying about what was or what will be.
- Focus on what is working in your life instead of what is not.
- Start a gratitude journal.
- Write three things that you are grateful for everyday.
- Appreciate ordinary moments, like making the green light, getting a parking place when the lot is full, or seeing a butterfly.
Take a few moments every day to be thankful. Make gratitude a practice by feeling it, showing it, and doing it. Embrace the emotion and live in this space. I have found that being grateful leads to a more content, peaceful, and meaningful life. Appreciate the present moment because this is where all possibilities live.
In counting my blessings, not my losses, I found joy again. Life offers many wonderful opportunities to feel blessed. Waking up tomorrow is a hope, not a certainty. One of the most overlooked items on the gratitude list is our life-sustaining breath. We take it for granted. But without it, we cease to exist.
In his book, The Four Purposes of Life, Dan Millman writes, “True spiritual practice is not separate from our daily life but rather its very substance.” When we realize that life happens in ordinary moments, we are no longer searching for the extraordinary, because we know everyday events are the extraordinary. These are the occasions we remember and hold dear—playing frisbee with our child, watching a sunset, attending a concert, or picnicking in the park.
Take a cue from the picture above. The girl is truly living in and embracing the moment. You can feel her joy! living in the now, we are in our spiritual practice because we understand that each day is sacred. When we do this, gratitude arises because we recognize the tremendous blessing we possess—the gift of today.