It takes intentional awareness to incline the mind toward gratitude. We gravitate toward (harp on, remember, obsess about, complain about, and even share with others) the negative in our lives. We live in a culture of hurry, worry and busy. Slowing down just for a moment, pausing, and cultivating an attitude of gratitude can have a huge impact on our mood, relationships, and how we live our lives.
According to Robert Emmons, professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, one of the foremost authorities on the topic of gratitude in North America, gratitude can give life meaning, improve mental and physical health, and improve relationships and communities. For the latest research on gratitude, check out his page and his book, Thanks: How the new science of gratitude can make you happier.
But it takes disciplined practice. It takes cultivating gratitude on a daily basis amidst your daily life. Here are some ways you can incline the mind toward gratitude in your everyday life:
Start a Gratitude Journal. Make a commitment to write in a gratitude journal every day. But with a “loophole.” It could be just one word! Remember, regular practice inclines the brain toward….you choose!
Post it. Put up visual reminders – surround yourself with things you love, that make you feel grateful for your life and those dear to you.
Write a gratitude letter. Write a letter to someone telling them how much you appreciate them. Tell them what you appreciate about them and the impact their presence has had on you. Take it a step further and share the letter with them, in person. Maybe just hand it to them. Maybe read it to them.
Practice “noticing the good.” Decide one day when you wake up that you will actively look for good news in your everyday life. Notice someone smiling at you, the smell of an orange, a sweet memory that comes to mind, the kind words you overhear someone using with another. Savor the experience for 20 – 30 seconds. The longer you stay with something, the more the neurons fire and wire together. The amygdala highlights the positive experiences in your hippocampus for long-term memory. Then repeat!
Find a gratitude partner. Studies show that when we engage with others in cultivating a particular discipline, we are more likely to sustain the new practice.
Practice random acts of kindness. Gratitude, generosity and kindness go hand-in-hand. Look for everyday ways to extend kindness to another person, including your own self. Often, we need to “start closer in” with kindness – being kind toward yourself. Notice the ways you talk to yourself and intentionally choose words that are kinder, softer. Give yourself a break. Slow down in your day. Then extend the kindness to others in your everyday life. Practice simple things, like smiling at those you pass on your commute, holding the door open for someone, pausing and really looking at your partner or child when they are talking.
Practice Forgiveness. Practicing forgiveness creates a clearing in us. It’s like opening the windows of our house on a spring day. It brings us back home to our true nature. It helps us live without regrets. Leading meditation teacher, Tara Brach (and she’s right here in DC!) leads a beautiful forgiveness meditation. Click here and look up the “forgiveness meditation” The Mind Body Connections December topic is Forgiveness. Come to our workshop on practicing forgiveness.
Join us on Wednesday, November 13, 2013 for the Mind-Body Connections workshop , An Attitude of Gratitude. Start the holiday season off with a positive mindset and open heart. Engage in a practice of being mindful of the good in our lives. After this workshop, you will have the opportunity to take part in an online “gratitude group” for one month…and see how this impacts our mood and how we live our lives.
Click HERE to register for next week’s workshop.
Join us here (and on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest) November 18 -22 for Gratitude Week, as we celebrate the little things in life and set our intention for the upcoming holiday season.