Today, (and everyday), we'd like to talk about Gratitude. I like to think of gratitude as the secret to hacking the unlimited potential of the universe. While science has yet to prove my particular hypothesis, it has confirmed the amazing benefits that a gratitude practice can have on your life. For example, this article by Psychology Today details 7 scientifically-proven benefits of gratitude, such as: opening the door to more relationships, improving physical health, and even getting better sleep. This article by the University of California at Berkeley explains how gratitude actually changes your brain: a study proved that gratitude practices are not only good for healthy people, but also for those who struggle with mental health challenges.
The key to gratitude is practice. The most lasting benefits of gratitude are observed gradually over time. Which is why we use the word "cultivate." You have to sow the seeds of gratitude, water and nurture them with earnest consistency and love, experience your flowers blossoming, and continue to tend to them to keep them healthy and vibrant. The hard part is the start: it is sowing the seeds and having faith that positive growth will come from your efforts, even if it unseen at first.
So, you're ready to plant gardens in your brain that give back 10-fold, right? Where do you start? How do you actually cultivate gratitude? There are so many ways and you should bend every practice to what works best for you. Here's just a couple things that has worked for us:
Keep a gratitude journal. Start with writing three things everyday that you're grateful for. There are apps for this, but we find that there's just something special that happens when you put pen to the paper. I've found this works best for me at the start of my day so I can go forth with an appreciative mindset, or at the end of the day as I rewind and remind myself that regardless of what has stressed me, there are many things to be grateful for.
Let nature teach you. Nature is abundant with natural beauty that contributes to our health and happiness even when we don't pay attention to it. Simply take the time to stop and notice. Notice the respite from the summer sun that the tree's shade gives you. What color flowers blossomed the most in your neighborhood this year? How do they make you feel?
Tell one person something you love about them. Share your gratitude and develop a practices that pays it forward. Commit to telling one person everyday something you appreciate about them. This small gesture can have amazing ripple effects, and making others feel good makes us feel good too.
Smile, even if it's forced. Seriously, intentionally smile more - at people, things, or your own silly thoughts - even if you don't feel like it. We believe that our bodies follow our mind's directions, but sometimes the opposite can occur. We can trick our minds to follow our bodies. So, if you smile even when you don't feel like it, you will as your mood lifts to match your body's expression. "Fake it til you make it," right?
Volunteer or help others. We love gratitude in action! Join a volunteer program that truly calls you, or simply offer your help to someone once a day even if it's something super small. Offer to help with dinner, or offer to just be a listening hear.
Go forth and plant gratitude and change your mind for the better! Remember, be patient and know that every step you take is contributing to lasting benefits for you. Don't be discouraged if you don't feel 100x better after your first gratitude writing (but also, don't be surprised if you do ;). Practice with non-attachment to the results and enjoy the process. If you have other ways you've found to cultivate gratitude in your life, let us know!