Happy New Year!
We have lived through yet another year, a privilege which was not given to everyone. While I do not make new year resolutions, I do like to implement throughout the year new habits or ideas which are beneficial to my life. The older I get, the more mindful I want my life to be. The more mindful I become, the more meaningful my life becomes.
Years ago, I started a gratefulness journal and while I no longer write in my journal regularly, gratefulness is now a habit I nonetheless practice daily. There is truly some “magic” in the art of gratitude. Learning to be grateful has brought much joy and peace, it has taught me to look at life from a different lens.
The Magic of the Art of Gratitude
I call gratefulness an art because it is a skill which for most of us (if not all of us) acquire by experience, study, and/or observation.
What is gratitude?
According to an online dictionary, gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” (1)
This is all well and good but why would anyone want to take the time to practicing gratefulness?
Remarkably, we find the answer to this question in science. We are now able to observe and record so many bodily functions from our blood pressure to our heart rate, to our immune system and even our brain functions. Being able to observe this data under various conditions and then catalog it enabling us to see which habits have a positive impact on our bodies and psyches as well as those which are no benefit to us.
While we can live from day to day without being fully conscious of our choices and thoughts, it actually may behoove us to pay attention to our mind-body-spirit connections.
Daily cultivating a grateful attitude has many health benefits. Here are but a few:
- Better health
- Sounder sleep
- Less anxiety
- Less depression
- Higher long-term satisfaction with life
- Kinder behavior toward others
- Less likely to be aggressive when provoked
- Stronger immune systems
- Lower blood pressure
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More joy, optimism, and happiness
- Acting with more generosity
- Acting with more compassion
- Feeling less lonely and isolated
Steps to Practicing Gratefulness
An art is developed through practice and often, at least in the beginning, it helps to have some steps or ideas to follow. Many experts in the art of gratitude feel that one of the best ways to develop your gratitude muscle is to start keeping a gratitude journal. A journal is not only a great way to develop a new beneficial habit, it is also a fun way to have a tangibly record and review the blessings in your life.
- In the evening, review your day from a place of gratitude
- Before going to bed, write down one thing – or more – that you are grateful for
- Try to see the good in any situation ~ i.e you are delayed at the airport with technical issues. Instead of being annoyed, be thankful someone noticed the problem before the plane took flight
- Give a heartfelt compliment to someone daily
- Practice the golden rule – treat others as you would like to be treated
- Make a decision to avoid complaining, criticizing, or gossiping*** for a week.
- Donate to charity
*** For many years, I was confused about gossip. If I could never mention a non-present person to someone else, how could I resolve issues with family, friend, or co-worker? Would going to counseling to vent be considered gossip? How would anyone ever ask for advice in difficult situations or vent when upset?
I did a bit a digging and discovered that gossip is quite different from sharing. If you are, like me, a bit fuzzy on the whole gossip versus sharing idea, let me share with you two of the major differences:
- Intent: Gossipers want to build themselves up by making others look bad. So if your intent is to puff yourself up rather than just wanting to vent, asking for advice, or finding a solution to a problem, you probably should remain silent
- Type of information shared: Gossipers divulge the faults and failings of others, and/or reveal private or personal details regarding the lives of others without their knowledge or permission.
In short, gossipers share personal things which are not any of their business in the first place and they usually do so to make themselves look (or feel) good.
Granted, in the exercise above (in number #4), whining, complaining, or criticizing are out. This means the sharing-gossip debate is moot. Nonetheless, I still wanted to help clear up the confusion (if there was any).
Ideas for Gratitude Journals
You can make a gratefulness journal from a cheap 50 cent spiral notebook or you can splurge and buy a pretty gratitude journal.
Sources for the Art of Gratitude:
- Gratitude definition