As we start a new month, and it's almost time for the kids to head back to school, it's a great time to start a new chapter in our lives too - a way to be more grateful!
When you think of gratitude, you may think that it's just a "feel good" thing, but practicing gratitude in your everyday life has actual benefits for your body, mind, and spirit and should be a part of your holistic approach to health.
The first thing that comes to mind for most people when they hear the word gratitude is.......that's right, Thanksgiving. It is one of the few times of the year when most give any thought to being grateful. And let's face it, going around the table with the meal already set out and smelling good, is probably not going to elicit authentic, well thought out words of gratitude. However, gratitude should not be reserved for special occasions.
Did you know that gratitude is not just a simple thank you? Though saying thank you is certainly a form of gratitude, but being grateful is a deeper feeling with longer lasting effects. There are many things to name that make us happy - family, friends, a beautiful home, delicious food, money.....but according to science, one of the greatest contributors to happiness is gratitude.
According to Robert A Emmons, PhD, a professor of psychology and the world's leading expert on gratitude, there's a difference between feeling grateful, and being grateful. Feeling grateful is a response to a benefit we received, but being grateful is a way of life. A shift in attitude.
In addition to many health benefits, gratitude is also a powerful tool for better relationships.
That's all fantastic and all but can we train our brain to be more grateful? In the most simplistic of all terms and without getting into a lot of science-y stuff, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So start today, be grateful for everything. What we focus our attention on, grows. So focus your attention on what is going RIGHT, instead of what is going WRONG.
When it comes to being more grateful, don't be picky. Don't just save your gratitude for the big things. I challenge you to start a gratitude journal and come up with 500 things to be grateful for (over time). Remember, the more you do it, the easier it becomes. So start noticing everything around you. Here's a short list to get you started - sunny day, warm shower, your child's giggles, your warm coffee, lighter than expected traffic.....you get the idea!
Also remember that finding gratitude for those times survived can help you become more resilient and hardy. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up a fertile ground for gratefulness.
To involved your children, and start a new family tradition, begin with a gratitude jar. Every day, write down something you feel grateful for (and have your family do the same) on a slip of paper and drop it in the jar.
At next Thanksgiving (or New Year’s), take out those slips of paper and read them over to realize all the goodness in your life.
Alternatively, create a colorful bulletin board filled with pictures and note cards that represent all the things you have to be grateful for. Hang one in the office to help you keep proper perspective about the world or keep it prominently displayed in your home.
Each time you look at it, you'll remember that you have many things in life to feel thankful for--even on your hardest days.
Finally, remember that being grateful is a CHOICE - What choice will you make today?
With gratitude, Emmy