An Attitude of Gratitude

Many of us associate the word gratitude with the act of simply saying “thank you” to someone for a kindness shown to us or others. But gratitude is far more than just a reaction associated with being thankful for something. It is actually a coherent emotion, and a deep appreciation of someone or something.

Gratitude is a state of mind that we create when we affirm good in our lives that comes from outside of ourselves or from relishing in small pleasures. We all have those precious blessings in our lives that we are grateful for, but gratitude does not necessarily have to come from our own circumstances.

Practicing gratitude means developing an awareness that allows us to be grateful for things like good health, a delicious meal, a child’s smile, the air that we breathe, etc. It is a deeper appreciation of life in all its moments. This includes gratitude for what we may deem as negative experiences as well, because we understand the learning opportunity available to us.

Tom Kenyon, one of my favorite teachers, speaks of how feeling the coherent emotions of gratitude and appreciation (as opposed to simply thinking about them) positively impacts our perception of ourselves and the world around us. According to Tom, “various studies, including those conducted by the Heart Math Institute, show conclusively that when we are in a coherent state such as appreciation, our cognitive abilities and problem solving skills actually improve. On the other hand, incoherent emotions, such as frustration, can have a deleterious effect on our cognitive function as well as our sense of wellbeing.”

This is not meant to say that we should avoid our incoherent emotions like sadness, anger or fear for example. That would not be productive! What I am saying is that spending time and effort in gratitude for life’s myriad of experiences helps us to recognize when our attention shifts to lesser coherent states. This awareness is the first step in the work required to move through these so-called “negative” emotions.

The benefits of practicing gratitude are plentiful. For example:

Wellbeing
Expressing your gratitude can improve your overall sense of wellbeing.

Relationships
Gratitude strengthens interpersonal relationships.

Optimism
A focus on gratitude can increase optimism by shifting your energy to more positive emotions.

Happiness
The pursuit of happiness is subjective, but the satisfaction that comes from practicing gratitude has a lasting positive effect. Therefore, the more we practice gratitude, the more positive we feel, thus the happier we are with our lives.

So, how do you enter into this state of mind?

Starting a gratitude journal is a wonderful way to get in touch with what makes you feel grateful.

To do this, get yourself a journal that is only going to be used as your gratitude journal. This is important because you want this journal to be filled with positive, happy experiences and emotions. It is good to be able to express all of your emotions, so consider having a secondary journal for all other expressions.

The purpose of the journal is to reflect on your day or week to pull out at least five things you feel grateful for.

Before you begin your journaling, make sure you feel sincere about what you are about to write about, and try to focus your energies on both people and intangibles.

Besides highlighting the wonderful things you can be grateful for, this practice has been proven to increase sleep quality, decrease symptoms of sickness, and increase happiness and joy.

What are you grateful for? I’d love to hear about it.

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