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Developing a Daily Gratitude Practice for a Mindful Life

We frequently refer to thankfulness as a method of expressing thanks for a meal, an occasion, or a kind deed. The definition of thankfulness is a little bit broader in order to follow the lead of positive psychology experts. Gratitude is the conscious appreciation of any component of our life experience, according to our definition. On the other side, Sonja Lyubomirsky provides a more poetic description:

"It is admiration, it is appreciation, it is seeing the silver lining in adversity, it is comprehending abundance, it is saying thank you to someone in your life... Counting blessings is what it is. It is appreciating the moment, not taking anything for granted, coping, and present-focused.

One of the simplest ways to change our set-point-driven mindset is to practice gratitude. Savouring something for fifteen seconds can have a profound impact. It can enlarge your outlook on life, transform obstacles into openings, and transform annoyance into interest. The difficulty and true value come from practicing the ability until it becomes automatic, allowing you to naturally experience appreciation throughout the day.

Effects of Gratitude in the Brain

We now have the scientific proof that practicing gratefulness has numerous advantages for your mental and physical well-being, thanks to developments in neuroscience and positive psychology. Gratitude fosters gratitude and contentment while simultaneously reducing anxiety, despair, and other symptoms of psychological distress.

How does being thankful work? Yet, the brain is "like Velcro for unpleasant events and Teflon for positive ones," according to Rick Hanson, a leading authority in positive neuroplasticity Traumatic events, such as automobile crashes, breakups, or extreme terror, leave permanent ridges in the brain's neural networks.

The brain's tendency to hold onto negative experiences like Velcro makes this prejudice even stronger. It guarantees that we mostly focus on regrets, resentments, and concerns rather than reflecting on times of joy and elation. Gratitude can, however, function as a counterbalance to this downward spiral, according to recent studies. Gratitude enables us to magnify the positive—to build more potent and vivid memories and, in turn, to make a lasting shift in the brain—despite the fact that our brains are inherently drawn to bad memories.

In fact, studies by psychologist Barbara Fredrickson at the University of North Carolina have demonstrated that feeling grateful "broadens and develops" the brain's ability to combat adverse emotional states. Without thankfulness, the mind narrows its options down to a select few. By "widening the assortment of thoughts and behaviors that come to mind," gratitude broadens the area. Gratitude, for instance, can help you broaden your perspective if you're feeling frustrated when stuck in traffic. The wait can be used as a time to fully listen to your favorite music or audiobook, to relax into your breath, or to start noticing the changing colors of the trees' leaves.

It's best to start modest while engaging in thankfulness practice, just like with undertaking any other new endeavor. Focus on finding one small item to be grateful for every day between the time you get up in the morning and the time you prepare for bed at night rather than trying to transform your entire perspective in a single day. This could be as simple as a friend or coworker who excels at something, a satisfying lunch in the afternoon, pleasant weather, or the right moment to hear your favorite music on the radio.

As you take a time to express your gratitude, make it a point to focus entirely on what you love about what is in front of you and why you like it. Like magic, you'll start noticing more and more greatness around you as soon as you begin to focus on the minor elements you previously overlooked.

Gratitude became a daily habit for Spencer, a former family business owner and executive coach, and it caused a lifelong negative pattern of behavior to change:

"My life's "specks on the wall" were all I used to think about. Items that I want more or wished I had (cooler career, bigger house) (money, power). My family, strong friendships, and a career that served my purpose were what I actually valued in life, not maintaining score in a game that didn't sum up to those things. I started to realize how frequently I choose to pay attention to the bad things. I established the practice of being grateful every day and began keeping a gratitude journal. Now, as I start to think about the particles, my thoughts turn to ones of appreciation, and it entirely alters the course of my day. But, I've found that closing my eyes and taking a few deep breaths is the greatest way for me to prolong my sense of thankfulness and cherish these moments. My life has changed as a result."

We can all identify with Spencer's "specks on the wall" in some way. Without thankfulness, we concentrate on life's flaws, and they frequently take over our vision. Gratitude broadens our horizons. Even though we can still notice flaws, we are also aware of the gifts that surround them.

Though it might be quite tempting to compare oneself to others (especially when it comes to what you see on social media), comparisons should be avoided if you want to perfect the art of appreciation. Be grateful for what you already have because eventually you'll have more, as Oprah so eloquently puts it. You will never have enough if you focus on what you don't have.

If you're unsure of how to end the comparison game, consider utilizing a clever tactic (or two). After you've mastered the ability to halt yourself in your tracks, you'll feel far greater gratitude for your journey.

Ram Dass, a revered spiritual teacher and former Harvard psychologist, compares this change in perspective to a picture of the sky. Dass asserts that all you can see in an image of the sky that has been zoomed in on a little gray cloud is that cloud. Everything appears gloomy and monochromatic. The cloud is surrounded by blue sky, though, if you zoom out and look at the sky from a wider angle. You can attain that kind of viewpoint change through thankfulness.

Feeling downhearted? Try making someone else happy. Not only will it make you feel better, but it will also make you feel incredibly grateful for the time, skills, and abilities you have to give. Sometimes all it takes is a smile or a few minutes of your listening ear to someone on the street.

This change is more than just psychological. According to neuroscience research, this practice has a profound impact on the brain's neural networks. According to neuroscience researcher Dr. Richie Davidson, "It's a good assumption that well-being treatment [expressing gratitude for oneself and others] increases the prefrontal cortex given everything we know about the brain circuitry underpinning these components."

One thing is certain when psychologists investigate the incidental mechanisms behind thankfulness. Many advantages of well-being are provided by gratitude, including:

Elevated Optimism: Studies show that the practice is associated with an increase in the experience of good emotions and a decrease in the experience of negative ones.

Less Anxiety And Stress During Emergencies: In research conducted in the wake of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and other locations, Fredrickson discovered that thankfulness practice reduced the frequency and severity of painful recollections.

Improved Physical Condition: Gratitude improves our sleep patterns and blood pressure. Researchers have shown that practicing thankfulness helps us sleep more soundly, drift off more easily, and wake up feeling more refreshed.

Improved Connections: According to Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough, feeling grateful in a relationship can lead to a "upward spiral." We treat our friends and family with more love and respect as we grow to be more appreciative of them.

Just setting out some time each day to concentrate on the experience of gratitude is the key to developing the habit of being grateful. This can be accomplished by listing three things for which you are grateful or by expressing thanks before a meal.

Here are some pointers to help you get the most out of this practice, regardless of the method you choose:

Engage Your Family And Friends: Before a dinner, ask each participant to express what they are thankful for. This will help everyone feel thanks and reinforce the experience.

Bear It In Mind: The most challenging aspect of the appreciation practice, like other healthy habits, is remembering to perform it. We suggest two tactics. As was already indicated, start by including your family and friends. Each of you will aid the other in remembering when you all sit down to eat. You can also employ the sticker method. Place a tiny sticker with the word "Gratitude" in the top corner of your place mat. Every time you dine in your home, this will serve as a visible reminder for you.

Rewiring Must Be Remembered: It's normal to feel grateful for a brief period of time before returning to eating or other activities. After expressing thanks, don't forget to create a quiet space. Savor the moment for just 15 seconds.

How To Tell If It's Functioning: When you eat in a few weeks or a month, you will naturally express and enjoy your thankfulness for the day. Also, you'll start to see a rise in your frequency of thankfulness experiences throughout the rest of your life.


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