By Karrie Osborn
While this is the time of year that #gratitude starts trending, living a grateful life is not something to wrap up in a day, a week, a month . . . or a hashtag. It begins with rejecting our own egos, valuing the here and now, recognizing the importance of everything and everyone outside ourselves, and honoring it all from an open heart.
Finding our gratitude is not always an easy thing to do—life presents challenges that often make it easier to live in the shadows instead of the light. Find a way to flip that script. And it can start with the simple practice of positivity. Consider the smallest things. For example, on Tuesday of this holiday week, as I drove through rush-hour traffic to pick up my daughter from the airport on her trip home from college, I started to complain about the crazy drivers, the new traffic pattern that seemed to make congestion worse, and how late I might be in picking her up. But I stopped myself. I flipped the switch and found gratitude instead: “I’m so grateful that my daughter is coming home for the holidays to be with us.” The other stuff was inconvenient—the power was in the grateful moment I had just reclaimed.
The Impact of Gratitude on Health
Not everything is as simple as finding the positive note, but gratitude is a choice. And it’s a healthy choice. Consider these research findings on the role gratitude can play in our health:
• Gratitude helps improve sleep, strengthens the immune system, and reduces stress.
• Gratitude improves patience and the ability to forgive others.
• Gratitude contributes to happiness and helps manage grief.
(For more specifics on the studies that arrived at these outcomes, as well as a lengthy list of additional research studies that show gratitude is a healthy choice, read “35 Scientific Benefits of Gratitude: Mental Health Research Findings” by Imed Bouchrika.)
Ways to Find Your Gratitude
If you need help finding your gratitude, here are a few suggestions:
- There’s an app for that: From online gratitude journals to daily affirmations to a gratitude game, there are plenty of ways to find your gratitude inspiration through your phone.
- Gratitude journals with prompts: Want to start a gratitude journal but don’t know where to begin? These journals give you just enough direction that you aren’t sitting lost in your thoughts.
- Establish a gratitude mantra or prayer: If journaling isn’t your thing, a daily gratitude practice might involve the simple act of repeating a gratitude mantra (a word or phrase you can repeat throughout the day) or reciting a prayer or poem before bed.
- Be grateful on purpose: Sometimes it’s hard to shift a mindset that might be more caught up in the chaos than the calm. Schedule your moments of gratitude if you must; put a reminder on your phone. Force yourself to find the positivity, not the negativity. And put yourself in environments where gratitude can ooze out of you (i.e., a morning hike in pristine quietness).
- Know when to flip the switch: When you hear negative words coming out of your mouth, turn the page, flip the switch, be empathetic, reboot. It really is a choice.
Living a grateful life does not need to be hard; it just needs to be authentic. Find what works for you and let it be the beginning of a lifelong practice.
Karrie Osborn is senior editor at Associated Bodywork & Massage Professionals.