Photo Credit: Twitter
Have you noticed the increased expressions of gratitude on your social media? At least in the US, we are gearing up for Thanksgiving. Some of us take this occasion as an opportunity to daily and publicly express our gratitude. Based on what we know from research, this could make November one of our happiest and least stressful months of the year.
Below you’ll find quotes from some of these authors, reporting on both clinical research and anecdotal data that support how the practice of gratitude can actually alter our habits of thinking and our sense of well-being. It’s all good for us and those around us.
“Our brain is always on alert to threat and is more predisposed to look at the negative side of life [stress response]. There are many things that happen to us everyday that are positive but we don’t notice them because we are always looking for the next threat to us. Now these actions are below our level of awareness. It takes some concerted effort to get our brain to move to the positive side of life. And that is where paying attention and expressing gratitude plays a role in establishing that positive mindset. When we start to place attention on the positive events in our life our brain responds by producing the neurotransmitter dopamine…We do feel better when dopamine is flowing but that also makes are brain wanting more – so it becomes the motivating neurotransmitter also…In addition, the brain loves confirmation bias: it looks for things that prove what it already believes to be true. Dopamine then strengthens that action. So if you start seeing things in your life that you are grateful for, your brain will start looking for more things to be grateful for.” – Patricia Faust, How Gratitude Affects the Brain
- Once in awhile, they think about death and loss. – As we think of past losses and future losses (say of those we love), we remember and reflect on the good we’ve known in those situations or relationships. Of future losses, we then take action to savor and bless those persons while we have them near.
- They take time to smell the roses. – Whether our current situation feels difficult or just mundane, we look for the beauty.
- They take the good things as gifts, not birthrights. – We see entitlement for the life-diminishing thing it is.
- They’re grateful to people, not just things. – We can be thankful for great food, for blue skies, for warm clothing, but we go beyond that to the one(s) who provided the good we have.
- They mention the pancakes. Being grateful for the specific little things disciplines us to enlarge our gratitude for the greater things in our lives. Those things that can cause stress if we don’t remember the value and significance in them.
- They thank outside the box. Even in adversity or hard times, we can find things for which to be grateful. Gratefulness doesn’t minimize the difficulty; it actually strengthens us to endure.
“Given its magnetic appeal, it is a wonder that gratitude might be rejected. Yet it is. If we fail to choose it, by default we choose ingratitude. Millions make this choice every day.
Why? Provision, whether supernatural or natural, becomes so commonplace that it is easily accepted for granted. We believe the universe owes us a living. We do not want to be beholden. Losing sight of protection, favors, benefits and blessings renders a person spiritually and morally bankrupt. It’d be hard to improve upon the words of our 16th President in 1863:
‘We have grown in numbers, wealth and power as no other nation ever has grown; but we have forgotten God! We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.'” – What Gets in the Way of Gratitude? – Robert Emmons
- Keep a gratitude journal.
- Write a gratitude letter to a past mentor or teacher.
- Count how many things you can find to be grateful for in each room of your home.
- Listen to a guided gratitude meditation [my suggestion if you don’t prefer guided meditation: spend some time in the Psalms].
- Start business meetings with a “what went well” one-sentence reflection.
- Savor receiving thanks.
- Take a daily photo of something you are grateful for and post to Instagram or Facebook, tagging it with #365project.
- Try a gratitude jar or tree. – Tamara Lechner, The Neuroscience Behind Gratitude: How Does Cultivating Appreciation Affect Your Brain?
So…what are you grateful for at this moment?
Photo Credit: Robert Emmons, Greater Good, Daily Good