The Wonderful Power Of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude so much! So much!! Oh my gosh. If someone came to 18-year-old me and they were like: "you know what you should do? You should totally have a daily gratitude practice," I'd Probably. Absolutely. Not. do that. But, now. At 100-years-old, it's one of my favorite things to practice.
I will say that even now when people tell me what I should do, I get annoyed. And, I'd probably roll my eyes if I told someone that I was depressed and they advised for me to practice gratitude. So, if you're annoyed as you're reading this, I get it! *Hugs* if you like hugs! :))
But! There's so much research indicating how beneficial savoring and noticing good moments are, and how healing it can be to consistently have gratitude for the things that we do have. Apparently, one study found that folks who practice gratitude show fewer signs of getting heart disease? Whoa! It makes sense because, to me, that particular coping skill helps to alleviate anxiety and stress and overwhelm-- all factors that exacerbate physical health concerns.
I think a consistent practice of gratitude can help us manage two difficult emotions or two difficult scenarios -- envy, jealousy and our persistent desire to have more in this capitalistic world. And, thank you so much to the Calm meditation app for having a meditation on ways to use gratitude to combat envy and jealousy.
We know this story well. We're scrolling through social media and everyone's in some fancy country, or getting married, or seems like they have a trillion dollars in their savings account. We think: "shit! Why aren't I in some fancy country? Why don't IIIIIIII have billions of dollars in the bank?"
What would happen if, in that moment, we acknowledged our disappointment and we empathized with ourselves? And also, we reflected on what we appreciated about our lives? Maybe the sun is shining and in Upstate New York, the sun never shines, and we feel so happy to feel the sun on our skin. Can we appreciate that? Maybe we're eating some fancy zoodles we just made. How about appreciating that? Can we pause and breathe deeply, and appreciate that we're alive and our bodies are so powerful and we can smell wonderful aromas and taste so many different flavors? Can we appreciate the phone we're holding, with its powerful technologies? Maybe we get off social media and play our favorite songs and cherish our ability to listen to something and dance, if we're able.
So, we may want more. But, can we ask ourselves: well, what do I have? Can I practice being OK with what I have? Can I appreciate what I have? And, this may be easier for those of us who already have a lot. We have our basic needs met, for example. Maybe we have a lot of other needs met as well. Maslow's hierarchy of needs may still be valid; he discussed the importance of physiological needs, safety needs, belongingness and love needs, esteem needs (e.g., feeling accomplished) and self-actualization (e.g., achieving our full potential like MLK Jr. or Dr. Rick Hanson, this wonderful psychologist who talks often of the power of gratitude).
Maybe the more privilege we have, the more we might be able to focus more on and appreciate what we do have. But there are folks out there who experience so much oppression and violence, who might be unable to practice gratitude as often.
But, here's another thing I love about gratitude practice: the more those of us with privilege practice appreciating what we do have, the more open we might be to sharing our wealth or our time or whatever we think we can give to the world. How beautiful would this be?! Seeing us help each other and be kind to one another more often than not would bring me so much joy and calm.
So! Do you think you'll practice some gratitude today, and tomorrow, and everyday? What are some things you're grateful for?
If you'd like to experiment, try it for a week. Every time you wake up, you can start your day with noticing 3 or so different things you're grateful for. If that sounds too structured, you can practice savoring the moments throughout the day that bring you joy. Really breathe and use all your senses, if possible, to appreciate them.
Maybe your favorite person sends you a funny meme. Maybe the snow looks so incredibly breathtaking. Maybe you eat some pizza, and it's honestly the best pizza you've had in your life, especially after days of eating quinoa and cous cous and spaghetti squash lol! Maybe you were able to read some truly beautiful words. Maybe you did some yoga and you were so happy with what your body can do. Shoot, maybe your chapstick makes your lips feel super good. Maybe your green tea really hit the spot that morning.
Savor these wonderful moments and reflect on what it feels like immediately after the savoring and/or, see how you feel at the end of the week. If nothing happens, experiment with doing it for another week! Haha. And, another week! The more you practice this skill, the more your brain changes for the better.
Want to learn more skills, aside from gratitude, that increase happiness? You can take this free course from Yale Professor Laurie Santos! Also, The Happiness Lab podcast is the best!