One of my favorite holidays is Thanksgiving. I love the wonderful smells from the kitchen, the bountiful food, the camaraderie of family, the post-meal nap, and the shopping! But the thing I love most about this time of year is the focus on giving thanks. After practicing gratitude for years now, it's clear to me how it has changed my life for the better.
Why Is Gratitude So Good for Us?
Gratitude can reduce anxiety, lower blood pressure, improve sleep, and make us more resilient. It also fosters our relationships, even difficult ones. It floods your heart with warmth, changes the way you think, and allows you to let go of tensions.
Most of us have heard of or even keep a gratitude list or journal. This practice changed my life several years ago during a difficult period. I’ve always kept a journal, but up to this point, journaling was a space for me to vent my frustrations. One day as I was facing what felt like a daunting year, I made a very conscious intention to change my journaling from venting to gratitude. I began writing the things I was grateful for that day. I wrote three things every day, even if it was “I’m grateful this day is done.” This intentional practice didn’t change what was happening in my life, but it did change my perspective which changed my life. I developed a gratitude mindset.
Starting with a daily gratitude list is a great place to start. But sometimes it can become routine as we tend to list the same things over again. It’s usually something along these lines, "I'm grateful for my family, my home, and my health." Challenge yourself to take it to the next level.
Why Are You Grateful?
When you go beyond a simple list and start answering the "why" it is like a power boost to gratitude. Take this example: "I'm grateful for my home." When you add in the why, it becomes: "I'm grateful for my home because it provides me with a warm, safe place to live. It's cozy and cheerful and I feel good every time I pull into the driveway."
Wow! Can you feel the difference?
How about this added challenge? Don't let your list repeat each day. Come up with something new every day! Your gratitude list might include something about the same person but for different reasons. It's about really digging deeper and pulling out the power of gratitude.
For example, my first entry about my son was, "I'm grateful for the conversation I had with my son before bed tonight. I'm grateful he can share with me his thoughts and feelings. I'm grateful he feels safe with me to do so." The next entry about my son became, "I'm grateful my son took out the garbage without being asked. I'm grateful he's becoming a responsible adult."
Creating this practice made me notice things throughout the day that I wanted to write down in the evening. And the more I noticed, the more I experienced – it compounded! Cultivating a gratitude practice allowed me to get through challenging times with a little less stress and it has expanded my life for the better.
If you aren’t much of a writer, that’s okay! Even pausing to notice and feel grateful is enough to reap the benefits of gratitude. Focusing on gratitude will shift your perspective on life, and with practice, becomes a gratitude mindset.
This blog article was contributed by Tera Girardin, Marketing Manager for Nexus Family Healing.
Nexus Family Healing is a national nonprofit mental health organization that restores hope for thousands of children and families who come to us for outpatient/community mental health services, foster care and adoption, and residential treatment. For over 45 years, our network of agencies has used innovative, personalized approaches to heal trauma, break cycles of harm, and reshape futures. We believe every child is worth it — and every family matters. Learn more at nexusfamilyhealing.org.