What is it? We’ve all heard this word, but let’s break it down. The Latin word, gratus translates to pleasing, thankful. The official definition for gratitude is, 'the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.'
This concept does not just fall out of the sky. Harnessing this feeling requires paying attention; gratitude and awareness go hand in hand. Even when life seems overbearing and stressful, awareness can help us pin-point the little things in our lives that bring us gratitude and joy.
Research shows that those who practice thankfulness have improved relationships, cultivate a higher overall feeling of happiness, and even have fewer annual visits to the doctor.
Gratitude and Health
Significant research has been conducted on the concept of expressing gratitude. According to a study from the Greater Good in Action, those who participate consistently in the practice of gratitude experience stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and less stress.
Not only are these folks benefiting themselves by practicing gratitude, but it has been proven that they are also more likely to have compassion for others because of such practices.
Gratitude and self-love also go hand in hand. It has often been suggested that if we don’t first love ourselves, we cannot truly receive love from others or love others. This principle also applies to gratitude - the magic starts from within and evolves outward; ultimately having a positive effect on society at large.
Gratitude and Stress
More research finds that individuals practicing gratitude are more likely to inhabit healthy diets, as well as engage in higher levels of physical activity. The most impactful results, however, may be the effect of gratitude on stress.
Recently, more awareness has surfaced to the fact that stress is a gateway to many illnesses and therefore considered a leading cause of death. Gratitude practices have been shown to reduce stress levels in those practicing daily.
Gratitude practices do not make stressful situations in life disappear (darn), rather, the practice itself helps us to cope with stressful situations more proactively. Stress management and optimism are two very powerful tools to master in order to lead a long, healthy life.
More gratitude = Less stress = A longer, healthier life!
-->The act of expressing inner thoughts, feelings emotions, onto paper. Many of us practiced journaling as children with a “dear diary” approach, but this tradition is often lost in adulthood.
So much is happening in our lives on a day to day basis; if we don’t take time to slow down and propagate awareness for what’s going on internally, we can become victims to anxiety, depression, and a lower quality of life. Oppositely, those who keep a daily journal are found to have higher rates of mental, physical, and emotional health.
If you’re uncomfortable with the concept of translating your inner world out, start slow. Write down basic everyday events and observations, even if they feel mundane. Journaling can be a safe space for one to harvest an authentic relationship with the self - a relationship that is most important to nurture.
Learn more about the benefits of keeping a daily journal here.
There are countless benefits to keeping a daily journal, like obtaining tangible expressions of love, sadness, fear, anger; the whole spectrum. A gratitude journal is different because the contents entail only positive thoughts and feelings. Writing down that which you are grateful for may feel awkward at first, and even forced, but with practice and devotion it can become not only extremely rewarding, but second nature (amazing, right?)!
Think of gratitude as a practice of discipline; hard work but remarkably rewarding. Consistent expression of gratefulness can encourage our minds to lean towards optimism, rather than dwell in negative space (meditation has taught us this). Gratitude journaling can be as simple as writing down one thing that you are grateful for daily, and perhaps bumping this up to three things that you are grateful for each day as you become more in tune with your grateful self!
Another excellent practice is writing a heartfelt letter to a person in need of appreciation. Of course, it is your choice whether you decide to deliver the letter or not, but the act of expressing your thanks in writing will increase your happiness either way. Think of someone that may be in need of a little extra love and attention, whether it is a family member, coworker, or even (and sometimes especially) a stranger, give them grace!
Once this practice becomes consistent, the journal itself can be a tool. Feeling low? Flip through the pages of your gratitude journal to remember all of the beautiful happenings in your life that you are thankful for. Rely on your gratitude journal in times of need. (P.S. It's still OK and totally healthy to keep a negative, rambling, every day journal - just keep it separate!)
This process takes gratitude from a noun to a verb. When we express gratitude physically, mentally, or emotionally, we are channeling it into a palatable, measurable concept. One that could ultimately change our lives for the better.
Tips to cultivate gratitude in your own life:
- Keep a gratitude journal!
- Meditate on feelings of gratitude
- Express thanks to others via thank you notes, texts, emails, etc.
- Join a community group
- Exchange thoughts on what you are grateful for with friends and family
- Take a yoga class
- Write love notes to yourself on your bathroom mirror or fridge
- Create a vision board
- Respond differently to triggered situations: laugh in traffic, breathe through difficult workloads, watch a funny movie instead of the nightly news
- Treat yourself!
- Take a luxurious bath
- Eat a delectable meal
- Indulge in some Tulsi tea time
#1: Remember that you are worthy of love and a beautiful life
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About the Author
Kaitlyn Hickling; Marketing Coordinator for ORGANIC INDIA USA
Kaitlyn is a passionate learner of all things holistic health. She studied Integrative Health Care and Nutrition at MSU Denver, and is a fearless DIY herbal medicine enthusiast. Kaitlyn coordinates marketing projects and social media content for the ORGANIC INDIA team, managing systems that further higher alignment towards the company’s mission of healthy conscious living.