Gratitude – It’s not something to think about
For many people around the world, we have entered the season with holidays that are about reflection and gratitude. Yet, it’s easy to feel too busy to take the time to actively practice gratitude. I know this was true for me. Then I learned about the research that shows it can help us sleep better, be more optimistic, more easily forgive others, improve our immune system, plus more. This information motivated me to be more intentional about taking time for gratitude. I’m so glad I did because it’s made a huge difference in my life!
I’ve also learned that if we just think about gratitude, we miss out on most of the benefits. We can quickly come up with a list of things we’re grateful for without experiencing a connection to them. If we want to truly “feel” grateful, it needs to be heartfelt, not just a thought.
So how can we go beyond thinking about gratitude to feeling it? Here are some of my favorite strategies you can try.
- Make it a discussion with someone else. Share what you’re grateful for and provide background and context to the other person. This can help bring it to life.
- Reflect on why you’re grateful for it. Why is it helpful or beneficial for you or your life? Keep digging to find the true “Why.”
- Consider how your life would be without it. The trick is to do this without taking it to the point that you feel sad about the possibility of losing it; just enough to really appreciate it.
- Create a mood or environment that makes it easier to feel the emotion of gratitude. Maybe it starts with listening to a favorite song that touches your heart or remembering a special time that helps you feel heart-centered.
Give one or two of these a try and see if you notice the difference. Things you might choose to appreciate could include a person, a place, a situation, a thing, an opportunity, or even something you’re glad you DON’T have. You could find things from your current life, your past, or even things you are looking forward to. For more insights, check out this article by Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on gratitude.