what is gratitude?
As defined in the dictionary, gratitude is the quality of being thankful, readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. But what does that really mean? Gratitude is a feeling that can re-wire your brain to feel happier.
How Gratitude Changes Your Brain
Gratitude forces us to focus on positive emotions and frees us from toxic emotions. When we are focused on thinking, writing or expressing what we are thankful for – we do not focus on things like envy, resentment, jealousy, etc.
When we express gratitude towards an individual or a situation, we instantly feel better – even when we don’t say it out loud or express it directly to that person. Just thinking about it, changes your thoughts process.
Gratitude benefits are long lasting if they are practiced consistently. Long term research studies have shown that people show changes in their brain chemistry as demonstrated by before and after MRI results.
Stages Of Gratitude
There are three known stages of gratitude: recognition, acknowledgement, appreciation.
Recognition – realizing that despite your trouble, things are going to be okay. You begin to see that things are not as bad as you may have anticipated and you are actually in a better position than you thought.
Acknowledgment – this is a feeling stage, it allows you to actually see and feel the light at the end of the tunnel, to feel hope and give you energy to turn your mindset around.
Appreciation – this is a stage where you express appreciation for people/situations in your life, this also includes appreciation for yourself and all things you have overcome.
How To Practice Gratitude
There are many ways to practice gratitude that involve being more mindful.
Observing – notice when you say “thank you” to people and when they say it to you. Does it feel authentic or habitual? If it feel habitual, pause and allow yourself to feel authentic gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal – make a habit of starting and/or ending your day with writing at least three things you are grateful for each day. This practice will help you focus on the little things throughout the day.
Share your gratitude with others – just like misery loves company, so does happiness. Share your gratitude with others and you will cause a ripple effect in your environment.
Use visual reminders – set different reminders throughout your environment to help you stop and focus on things you are grateful for throughout the day – such as post it notes on your mirror.
Use your senses – what are the things you are grateful to see, hear, smell, touch/feel, taste?
In the long term, gratitude will decrease your stress level and improve your overall health.