This has been the year of unexpected things. All the feelings over what is going on can really take a toll on our mindset and mental health. That’s why I’ve been reading more books on mindset this year than ever before. Something that has come up over and over again in all of the books I have been reading is the simple practice of gratitude.
Turns out, cultivating an attitude of gratitude packs some serious health benefits. And, the more I started to research gratitude and read books on happiness, the more I started to understand that so much of it starts within us and is in our control.
The Power of Gratitude:
And, the best part is that starting a quick daily gratitude practice is easy and free. Finally – something is free. Whether I write things down in a gratitude journal or just lay in bed for a few minutes after waking up and do some breathing exercises before thinking about all the things I am grateful for, the results are the same.
For me, this has really helped me stay connected and more present in my day to day life – even while the world seemed to continue spinning out of control and painful challenges crept into our home (our beloved pet has been sick and battling infections).
If you are feeling the need for a mindset shift as well, I think you will love the following health benefits that a simple gratitude practice can give you:
1. Gratitude can make us happier.
If I’ve learned anything, it’s that happiness is not a destination, it’s not something you can achieve, it is small moments in between the hard moments. It’s those minutes of pure laughter with a good friend or a few minutes to enjoy the perfect cup of coffee.
Practicing gratitude can increase these little moments of happiness and start to make those moments outnumber the ones where we feel overwhelmed, anxious, stressed, or whatever else.
The more we practice being grateful, the better we get at it and the happier we will be.
2. Gratitude can reduce stress.
We all have plenty of stress. Some days, that stress can feel like a big tidal wave trying to smash us to pieces. Other days, it’s a dull roar in the background. In fact, I cannot think of too many days when there was no stress at all.
Constant stress can really wreak havoc on our hormones – which in turn – can really damage our health. As someone who is mindful of my health for a variety of reasons, I am grateful for any opportunity that I can take to reduce my stress and improve my health.
Practicing gratitude helps to shift our perspectives, so that what we used to perceive as very stressful will actually seem less so, giving our bodies and minds a much needed break.
The effect is similar to how we feel when we look out at a vast, seemingly endless ocean or a gorgeous vista. These settings reduce stress because they make us feel so small in comparison to the big world out there, helping us put things in perspective.
Gratitude helps us put things in perspective, too.
3. Gratitude can increase good energy.
I love good energy. I love positive vibes. I don’t remember where I heard this story, but it has always stuck with me: A study was done to see if our moods and energy could impact things around us. Scientists studied the structure of water after people were asked to hold the water and focus intently on the word written on the cup. The words represented emotions, such as: hatred, love, anger, calm, etc. They studied the water before and after and there was a noticeable change in the structure of the water after the exercises. People’s emotions were able to actually change the structure of the water.
This means we have so much more impact on everything around us than we realize. Our energy flows out – and that not only influences our attention, too, but it also can change the objects and people in the path of our energy.
Think about all of the people, pets and environments that are impacted by your energy. This gives us all even more reason to do what we can to increase good energy, not only for ourselves, but for everyone we love around us, too.
4. Gratitude can improve your sleep.
Ahhh, sleep. I am a longtime insomniac. If I am not careful with my bedtime routine and controlling my thoughts, I will lay down and my brain will spiral for hours. Literally, I will lay there for hours while my husband snores.
I am not fixing anything or helping anyone by layering there and torturing myself like that. Yet, if my anxiety spins out of control, there’s not too much I can do about it.
So, I watch my mindset. I stick with my bedtime routine. I try my best to practice gratitude when the thoughts creep in at night, so that I can lay down and rest.
In fact, in a recent book I read by Jay Shetty, called “Think Like a Monk“, he shares some specific mantras and affirmations that we can repeat at bedtime to help us sleep better and wake up with a more positive mindset.
I absolutely loved that book, by the way, and I think it is such a powerful must-read for anyone who wants to improve their mindset and live with purpose.
5. Gratitude can improve our relationships.
This one is so obvious once you hear it, but how often do we really think about it? It’s as simple as thinking about what kind of people we like to spend time around: the positive, nice people, right? I don’t mean fake nice or shallow people – I mean people that are deep, intelligent, entertaining people who know what is really going on in the world, but still choose gratitude, empathy, kindness and love.
Those are good people to be around. We can all be that person for someone. We just need to choose gratitude and good energy.
And, for the people in our life that aren’t choosing gratitude and we feel like we are sinking underneath the enormous weight of their constant complaining and negative energy – Jay Shetty gives us a great lesson in his book on how to move forward – limit your time around them to whatever is healthiest for you and don’t extend the negative energy they make you feel by speaking negatively about them.
6. Gratitude can increase our empathy.
I am naturally a very empathetic person, but this is not the case for everyone. For me, I find that I can feel people’s pain and emotions so acutely, it can be very difficult for me to detach my own emotions from them. Then, I carry their pain and burden with me and it makes me physically sick.
But, I still think it is important to stay connected with one another. So long as there are people who are hurting, starving, and struggling in the world, we all have work to do to help one another and improve all of our quality of life.
By being grateful, we are better able to see the needs of others and find opportunities to serve. Whether that is recognizing that all those nice clothes you don’t want to wear or don’t fit your kids would be such a gift to families who lost their home in a fire or had to move into a shelter because they lost their business.
If we wait until our lives our perfect before looking for ways to help others, that day will never come. Helping and serving others will improve our own mindset, our own sense of gratitude and our own health and happiness, too.
7. Gratitude can increase our resilience.
Resilience is such an interesting topic. It’s our ability to spring back or adapt to trauma, stress, tragedy, health problems or any other type of negative experience in our life. Our ability to be resilient has a profound impact on our ability to move forward.
If you’ve ever felt the grief tunnel that comes with a hard and painful life experience, you know how long it can take before you start to feel like you’re leveling out emotionally again. It can sometimes feel like forever. And, while we need to honor this grief cycle and allow ourselves to properly feel it, so that we can move forward, we do need to have the ability to eventually move forward, too.
By doing what we can to express our gratitude, we can help ourselves recover and become more resilient to these life experiences. Because, fact is, they will come. Nobody’s life is perfect. I had someone tell me one time that I was “waiting for the other shoe to drop all the time”. I had that energy about me, because I had been knocked down so many times by life, so I just lived in this constant period of waiting for the next hit. She wasn’t wrong – that was my coping mechanism at the time.
Luckily, as I’ve gotten older, I have trained my mind to be better about appreciating the happy, quiet, calm moments in between the storms and when I get anxious for the next storm, I think to myself, “When it comes, you’ll know what to do.” Then, I try to just rest and relax in the lulls.
There is nothing we can do to stop the storms from coming. That is the human experience. What we can do is give ourselves the tools to be at our healthiest despite the storms.
This was certainly a deeper post than most. I absolutely love talking about fun printables, the best new face mask and great deals as much as anyone – but sometimes, we gotta get to the soul food. You feel me?
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Thanks so much for being here.
Have a fabulous day,