I have found little in my life more powerful than the power of gratitude.
Gratitude works like sunlight. Whatever you shine the light of gratitude on, you feed. In the jungle, plants and trees fight for the sunlight. They grow around and through reaching up and up, all with the same purpose- to get the sunlight that nourishes them. In the same way, gratitude “feeds” the light of your soul. When I wake up in the morning, I think of five things I am grateful for before my feet even touch the floor. I begin every day with gratitude. It is not always easy. There are some days when I wake up and my mind starts racing with the 100 or so things I want to get accomplished for the day. I tell my mind to slow down, I take a breath, and then make my gratitude list. It is often simple things like being grateful for a good’s night’s sleep, for access to clean water, for the love of my family, or for having a faith life that is nourishing and fulfilling. I make an effort to list different things each day (instead of the same 5 things over and over again) but if you can’t be original every time, it is fine. The important thing is just to be grateful.
When I start the day thinking of what I am grateful for, it helps me focus on the good things in my life and keeps me from getting into what I call the “lack rut”. The lack rut is an imaginary ditch in my mind, with high dirt walls. When I get stuck in that ditch, all I see is dirt- a big long stretch of it ahead of me. It is boring and empty and no fun at all. When I am in the “lack rut” all I can think about is what I am missing. I think about what I do not have. I think about all of the things in my life that need improving. Gratitude helps me out of the “rut” to change my view. Perspective is so important. You can be looking at the same things- your partner, your job, your home- but see them very differently depending on your focus. Making a gratitude list each day can help keep you focused on the positive. If you start the day with worry or focus on problems, then they will seem even larger. If you start the day with gratitude and focus on all of the good in your life, then that is what you will see.
Research has found the following benefits for people who practice gratitude regularly:
- Grateful people have better physical health overall. Specifically, gratitude can improve health by reducing cortisol which is a hormone produced when we are under stress.
- Grateful people are happier people. They experience less envy, frustration, resentment, and regret.
- Grateful people sleep better.
- Grateful people are more resilient people. They are better able to handle difficulties in life.
- Grateful people can find the positive in difficult and stressful situations. This improves their ability to bounce back from challenges.
Learning to live in gratitude instead of the “lack rut” takes effort and practice, but with results like those listed above, it is worth it. Begin your gratitude practice today and see how your perspective changes.
I have over 15 years of experience of working with individuals and families, first in child welfare, and then in mental health counseling. I have a Ph. D in Counseling, and am an Interfaith Minister. I work with clients desiring to include all of the aspects of the self in therapy-emotional and spiritual.