The power of 'thank yous'
One of the three men in my life insists on pillow talk every night. A few nights ago my seven year old claimed he was quite happy with his life and then proceeded to ask me whether I was.
I wanted to go off on a rant along the lines of "(n)o actually. I have terrible back pain so my movement is limited. I am tired of this miserable weather. Theo (2 years) is so insolent at the moment and really pushing the boundaries......" But of course I didn't verbalise any of this. I realised my mental rant was because of my lack of gratitude. I hadn't been practising gratitude for a week and it was showing in my thoughts.
We should all have a gratitude habit but sometimes require a small reminder to practice it.
Research has shown gratitude can do the following:
· build greater resilience
· strengthen the immune system
· reduce stress and depression
· lower blood pressure
· help one sleep better
· strengthen social relationships and of course
· improve general well-being
It involves noticing the good in the world, even when the chips are down. It's impossible to feel grateful and negative at the same time. The more positive feelings you have, the less room you have for toxic feelings.
So rather than focus on the negative(s), be thankful for the good things in your life.
This helps you to change your mindset. Because wherever your focus goes, energy will flow.
In the last few years it has become all the rage. Captains of industry as well as successful athletes and actors all practice gratitude. So why don't you?
You can do this in a number of ways.
Personally, every night in bed before I go to sleep, I take out my laptop and write ten things for which I am grateful in a list. These could be 'big' things such as my children and good health or the smallest of things like a whatsapp joke from a friend, the smiles from strangers during my morning run, leftovers for dinner which meant I didn't have to cook or the fabulous sleep I had the previous night. Whatever I chose, I ensure 8/10 things in my list are new or novel everyday.
We are wired for novelty. Being grateful for the same things everyday, even if they are worthy of great gratitude, won't have the same effect on our brain as finding something positive and new.
Try it yourself. Take small steps. Every morning or evening for 14 days, write down five things, big or small, for which you are grateful from that day (or the previous day). Check in with how you feel after a fortnight. If the evening doesn't work for you, try the morning.
I have been doing this for nearly 2 years and it has changed my life! I also have my 7 year do it every night so he develops the habit early on.
Gratitude rewires the brain. The more good you see now, the more good you are likely to see later. Studies show that those of us who practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, and express more compassion and kindness to others.
Seneca “ranked ingrates below thieves, rapists and adulterers”. As I am none of the latter, I decided to get back into my gratitude ritual after ten days of not practising. I know to achieve more, be happy and make a difference in the world, I have to consciously practice gratitude.
I am now grateful for putting my back out as I have just about healed it myself with yoga, so I feel empowered. I am grateful for the rain as I know there are droughts in many places in the world. And I am thankful for my very spirited two year old. His resilience and determination should hold him in good stead later in life.