Thursday 25th November is Thanksgiving Day in the US. You may or may not be celebrating, depending on where you are but I love the idea of a day of giving thanks and practising gratitude is one of the most well-researched ways of boosting wellbeing.
Being grateful helps us to gain perspective, boosts resilience skills, brings us into the present moment, encourages reflection and energises us. It’s a great idea to begin and end the day with gratitude too. Our brains are hard-wired to protect us. That is why it easier for our minds to pick up on negative stimuli. We are automatically drawn to it – so it’s important to recognise that – practising gratitude rewires your brain and trains it to find the positive. Here’s how:
Keep a gratitude journal – have a notebook to-hand and start your day by writing down what you are grateful for. Try out this exercise for a week and see if you notice any difference in how you feel:
- When you wake up, take a few moments to be present by taking a couple of deep breaths.
- Write down a list of 3 – 5 things that you are grateful for in your life right now. These can be material items, people, experiences, opportunities or even memories and they are completely personal to you.
- Then close your eyes and allow yourself to think for a moment about each thing on your list and what feelings this gives you – joy? Excitement? Security? Whatever the feeling is, try to tune into it for a moment
- Lock it in by saying ‘thank you’ out loud or writing it at the bottom of the page.
Write down positive experiences – this is a great thing to do at the END of the day. Research shows that even people in extremely tough situations (war zones) were able to identify some positive experiences every day. That may be a cup of tea or a kind gesture but by writing it down it helped to demonstrate that even in the midst of extreme difficulty and pain there can still be a positive experience. Those who did this over a period of just four weeks were far less susceptible to post traumatic stress disorder.
You can do this in the same notebook or gratitude journal just before you go to sleep.
Want to be happy? Be grateful.
The one thing all humans have in common is that each of us wants to be happy, says Brother David Steindl-Rast, a monk and interfaith scholar. And happiness, he suggests, is born from gratitude. An inspiring lesson in slowing down, looking where you’re going, and above all, being grateful.
Adopting an attitude of gratitude will support you during times of change, uncertainty and challenge. Try it today!