As we embark on the winter holiday season, that starts with Thanksgiving, I hope we all take the time to consider the healing power of gratitude. Gratitude has been proven to be a powerful anti-depressant and connection tool for those who practice it. And as we all know from receiving it, it feels good to hear people thank us.
It may be difficult to practice gratitude and connect with the “good” that is going on in this world of ours, as we listen to the news and the shocking ways in which humans behave towards each other. If we are not careful, the depraved behaviors get more attention than the life-affirming and loving behaviors, and the miracles and beauty of nature and life.
The reality is that for every bit of “bad” news, there are a thousand thing that go well – or at least I am inspired to believe so based on Ilan Shamir’s little book, “A thousand things went right today!” This is a book that I picked up about 15 years ago and continue to regularly revisit. I hope we can all be inspired by the sentiment of the book, as it would behoove us to balance our perspectives and take stock of what goes well, so that our world becomes a friendlier place and our nervous systems can relax.
With gratitude practices, we can take some very easy steps towards creating more peace and joy for ourselves and those around us:
When we wake up in the morning, before turning on the news or our electronic devices or picking up a newspaper, we can practice gratitude by feeling the warmth and comfort of our beds, the beauty of nature, or the miracle of life. We can feel the love we have for people and that people have for us.
When going to sleep, we can reflect on everything that went well in the day. For example, we could celebrate:
the exchange of a smile,
receiving a promotion,
somebody helping us with a task,
having access to food,
recognizing that we are part of a larger web of life.
We could also celebrate a goal or a task accomplished, our bodies functioning, the beauty and predictability of the sun rising and setting, and the chance to help somebody and as we make their lives a little more more wonderful.
We can play gratitude games like the gratitude alphabet by ourselves or with others. Beginning with the letter A, we can name something that begins with A that we appreciate, for example air. Then, we can continue to B for bicycles, C for colors, and so on until we reach z.
We can make a point of saying, “Hello,” and thanking the grocery clerk. We can do the same for anybody who is working on something that contributes to our ease and well-being, especially when we take them for granted. We can also thank ourselves for the ways we contribute to the well-being of others.
By practicing gratitude, we develop resilience and strength. Our minds become clearer. As information comes at us or difficulties arise, we can take a more balanced approach. We can be more creative in solving our problems, because the world will seem less dim and hopeless. Studies show that gratitude as a practice has better traction than prozac in helping people recover from depression. My experience says it also helps us be more peaceful, energized and connected to one another.
So, I would like to encourage you, to adopt any of these gratitude practices – waking up and appreciating what you have, going to sleep and appreciating what you experienced, saying thank you to those who are in your life, playing the gratitude alphabet game, and any other ways that you can think of.
Jessica Dancingheart is a personal and organizational consultant. Find out more at www.openingtopossibilities.com.