By Georgina Mellas, Reiki Master
My blessings are numerous. A beautiful son, loving husband, fulfilling work, and wonderful friends. I can go on and on about things I am grateful for but I don’t always feel this way. When I first sat down to write about gratitude a few days ago I was feeling anything but. I woke up with a terrible headache, stepped on a nail and punctured my foot, and spilled a hot cup of coffee all over my lap! Needless to say, I did not write about gratitude that day although that is precisely when it would have been most helpful!
The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. Gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for momentous occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a special gift or promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of pumpkin pie.
Researchers in the field of positive psychology have been studying the effect of gratitude on health and well-being for years. Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough are two of the leading American investigators of gratitude. They describe gratitude as the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take them for granted. Grateful individuals express their thanks and appreciation to others in a heartfelt way, not just to be polite. If you possess a high level of gratitude, you often feel an emotional sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life itself.
Researchers are finding that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are happier, healthier, and more energetic. The more a person is inclined towards gratitude, the less lonely, stressed, anxious and depressed he or she will be.
It would appear that counting our blessings on a regular basis can improve our moods and overall level of happiness and health, but expressing that appreciation to others will do so even more. Also, the good news is that noticing, appreciating and expressing our feelings for life’s little blessings can produce just as much benefit as noticing the monumental moments.
But, how do you increase your feelings of gratitude when nothing seems to be going right, or life presents great challenges and adversity? It may be human nature to notice all that is wrong or that we lack, but if we give ourselves the chance on a regular basis to notice all of life’s blessings, we can increase our sense of well-being, and create hope and optimism for the future—no matter what is going on.
Here are some ways to start practicing gratitude to improve your well-being:
- Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write down 3-5 things from the day you feel grateful for. Simplicity is key. Your child’s laughter, a beautiful sunrise, a delicious cup of coffee. Relish the feeling you get when remembering and writing it down.
- Express your gratitude. Take the time to share your feelings. Not the simple, polite thank you, but the heartfelt emotions. Tell your friend or partner how their support and sense of humour helps you get through tough times, and how much it means to you. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you love them and why.
- Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong. Sure you’re frustrated by a traffic jam, but thankfully you have an understanding boss. The line up at the grocery store is a mile long, but you are lucky to afford good quality food to feed your family.
- Practice gratitude with family and friends. Encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day that they feel grateful for. When you hear a friend moaning and complaining, ask him or her to find the hidden opportunity or silver lining to the situation.
After writing this article, I recounted the events of the other day when I woke up with a headache, stepped on a nail and spilled my coffee and took the time to notice the blessings of that day instead. My headache passed after a cool glass of water and a brisk walk in the morning sun, my husband is a master at first aid and although I spilled my coffee, I had a second cup brewed in an instant which was equally delicious.
For today, the cool breeze, changing leaves, and a warm hug from my son fill my heart with gratitude and joy. What are you grateful for?
Georgina is dedicated to helping clients release and heal emotional and physical challenges including childhood trauma, stress, depression, anxiety and chronic pain.