Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. Melody Beattie
For many people holidays, milestone events and special occasions are filled with elaborate meals, festive music and quality time shared with family and friends. However, for some people, these joyous moments are painful, lonely and difficult. These individuals have become disillusioned by the idealization of what a perfect moment is supposed to look like by focusing on the negative aspects of life. They are unable to see the hidden power of true joy through the simple act of gratitude. What does it mean to be thankful? How does an individual cultivate a thankful heart to establish a lifestyle of gratitude despite disappointments?
A thankful person is one who expresses gratitude for gifts received. It sounds so easy to simply choose to be thankful, but let's go a little deeper into thankfulness. It means to purposefully embrace life by having a mindset of gratitude and showing appreciation towards the simplest every day gifts, even when life throws an unexpected curve ball resulting in disappointment, hurt or pain. It is not always an easy decision to make, but the benefits of having a thankful heart can be empowering.
According to Dr. Robert Emmons, a professor of psychology at the University of California and expert on the science of gratitude, being thankful has a variety of health and emotional benefits which have the power to transform, heal and invigorate lives.
Some of these benefits include:
- increased emotional well-being & happiness
- increased energy
- increased desire to take better care of oneself through exercise
- decreased stress and depression
- fewer symptoms of personal ailments
- determination to make progress and finish goals
- strengthened empathy and social interaction
- improved sleep
With benefits such as these it's easy to see why being thankful is crucial. There are daily exercises which develop and cultivate an "attitude of gratitude" and will empower you to live a healthier lifestyle - starting today.
Count Your Blessings
Dr. Emmons stresses the importance of taking a few minutes to reflect and write down all that you are thankful for each day. By collecting these blessings in a consolidated place such as a journal, diary or notepad you are taking action towards transforming your life and improving your well-being.
Another thanksgiving exercise is a visual daily reminder. Write on sticky notes what you are thankful for and place them in easy to view places in the home. For example: my life, children, home, friends, and work. When you see the note, stop and take time to speak it out loud. Read it slow and intentional, repeating it two or three times, so the message sinks in. Practice this exercise daily. Eventually it will become spontaneous and thanksgiving will suddenly break out as you view a beautiful sunset or spend time with family or friends.
View Each Day as a Gift
Maintaining a positive mindset towards the practice of expressing gratitude requires not only internal reflection, but also viewing the world outside of yourself by choosing to see the good in your surroundings. People who express gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and respect the perspective of others. They tend to be more generous and helpful to people in their social circles. People with a thankful heart reap benefits emotionally, physically and in relationships.
Being aware that each moment is a gift and not a given will help you on this journey of gratitude. Overall, counting your blessings is a choice to view your surroundings with an open mind and an open heart by seeing the beauty despite the struggles or circumstances. Are you ready to create change and take control of your life by developing a thankful heart?