“You can complain because roses have thorns, or you can rejoice because thorns have roses” –
ZIGGY, CHARACTER IN A COMIC STRIP BY TOM WILSON
All the good that you have in life is a “gift” that is given to you and cannot be taken for granted. Also, living with an attitude of gratitude really matters, not just for your moment to moment wellbeing but also in the long run.
Attitude of gratitude
Our language reflects our thoughts and our thoughts and words shape our future experiences. Grateful people use words like gifts, blessed, fortunate and blessings whereas less grateful people are more inclined towards words like burdens, deprivation and complaints. However, it is possible to shift our mindset and incline it towards positive emotions and move from self-critical talk to one that is supportive and nourishing.
There are many different ways of expressing gratitude- whether through a simple thank you, a card, a favour in return. No matter how you express it, just by doing this and noticing the moments when you feel gratitude rewires your brain for the better. Using your gratitude muscle repeatedly, expressing and accepting gratitude from others can strengthen your relationships and contribute to your wellbeing.
One of the most beautiful things about living a life filled with gratitude is having days when you realise that it is would enough just to be alive. On top of that, if we are able to live a good life, have a loving family, a body which is healthy, the gifts can keep adding up.
The flow of gifts
Think for a moment about your life’s “gifts”. This could be simple everyday pleasures, your loved ones and your relationships, natural beauty around you, your personal strengths or gestures of kindness. If you do not yet think of these as “gifts”, repeat the word “gift” or use a phrase “I have been gifted” whenever you notice these moments in your life.
At the same time, enrich the gift by savouring it, relishing the experience and enjoy it without taking it for granted. Notice any other unexpected gifts that have come your way. Think of yourself as the receiver as well as the channel for the gifts that you receive so that it may flow through you to others around you.
Here are five ways to train your brain to practice more gratitude:
1. Take time to notice what’s around you
Start by paying attention to the present moment. The more often that you tune into your awareness, the greater the chances that you will notice all the good that is around you to feel grateful for. Being mindful of all the opportunities that present itself every day allows us to generate gratitude just by noticing them.
2. Practice gratitude for the little things
It is easy to remember to be grateful for the big things and occasions in our life- like getting married, graduation, but it can be more difficult to feel grateful for all the little things that we do every day. By finding opportunities to feel grateful for in the small moments makes our life a more fulfilling and enriching experience.
3. Share Your Gratitude with Others
Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. So the next time your acquaintance, friend or family member does something you appreciate, be sure to let them know.
4. Use your Senses
Our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—help us to appreciate and tune in to the miraculous gifts we walk around with each day. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is an amazing construction but also a gift.
5. Go through the motions
Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you and writing letters of gratitude to others. By doing this, you will be able to trigger the emotions of gratitude more often.
Growing in gratitude
Training our minds to practice gratitude more often is possible if we are mindful of ourselves, each other, and our environment. However, it does not require a lot of time, a special journal, to go on a retreat to do so. All you need is a greater awareness of what you already have in your life rather than focusing only on what you do not.
These are some things that you need to keep in mind
Be receptive to all the good that you have in your life without feeling that you should deserve or work towards it
Learn to accept the good in your life without feeling indebted, embarrassed or inferior
Have the grace to recognise that the gift has been given freely out of compassion, generosity and love even if you have not worked towards it or feel like you deserve it.
Lastly, realise that no one can feel grateful all the time. Even when you know it is good for you it is not possible to be grateful at all times. Acknowledge how you feel and continue to find ways to pay attention to your life.
Make healthier choices
And finally, research shows that grateful people have fewer health complaints. More importantly, practicing gratitude allows us to deal with health issues in a more effective manner. One of the primary mechanisms by which this takes place is by moving us from a sympathetic (fight or flight) nervous system mode to a parasympathetic (rest and digest) nervous system mode. In this manner, having a practice of gratitude can help calm the body and contribute to an overall feeling of relaxation.
However, for me, the most important benefit of practicing gratitude is that it also encourages us to fuel our bodies with nourishing foods and put in place healthy boundaries and self care practices like regular movement and rest. In other words, grateful people are better equipped to engage in healthy activities and prevent more serious health issues in the long run.