Gratitude, like mindfulness, is one of those concepts that’s getting a lot of attention these days. Still, very few of us understand what it means to consciously practice gratitude, and even fewer grasp how to leverage its power. Fortunately, starting a daily gratitude practice is one of the most impactful actions you can take in improving the quality of your life. Before getting into the specifics, though, let’s look at why practicing gratitude can be so potent.
How Gratitude Affects The Brain
Though research is still being done in this area, scientists have strong reason to believe that gratitude leads to improved mental health over time. One reason is that practicing gratitude is one of the most effective methods of shifting your attention away from toxic emotions like resentment, jealousy and regret toward positive emotions like warmth, joy and togetherness.
This shift alone can have a serious impact on the quality of our days, since each day is really just a succession of moments, and the quality of each moment is rooted in the emotions we feel within it. Think about it: could you ever have a bad day if every moment within it was one filled with love, bliss and gratitude? Conversely, could you ever have a good day if all you felt was anger, boredom and disdain?
What’s perhaps more interesting, though, is that the benefits of gratitude appear in both the short-term and the long-term. When you practice gratitude, even for just thirty or sixty seconds, you replace your stress and discomfort with happiness and ease. Such immediate relief is why many people choose to practice gratitude daily, though this immediate state change is still just half the equation.
Countless studies have shown that the larger benefits of gratitude accrue over time, much like a snowball gradually growing in size. Not only will the moments that make up your day take on new meaning, but your larger outlook on life will, too. As with many constructive habits, the more you practice gratitude, the more benefits it imparts.
Benefits Of Gratitude
Gratitude doesn’t only affect the brain—it impacts the body and soul, too. Multiple studies have shown that capturing feelings of gratitude in a daily journal can make you 10% happier, a shift comparable to doubling your income; others demonstrate that gratitude increases our life satisfaction and overall vitality. If those reasons aren’t convincing enough, how about improved sleep, lower blood pressure and a less materialistic worldview?
Tony Robbins puts it best when he explains, “The antidote to fear is gratitude. The antidote to anger is gratitude. You can’t feel fear or anger while feeling gratitude at the same time.” On top of being our brain’s best friend, gratitude is our emotional silver bullet, the shield that protects us from the things that get us down.
How To Practice Gratitude
One of the best things about incorporating gratitude into your daily routine is that you can practice it anywhere at any time. On your way to work, be grateful for the tiny moments you shared with your spouse and children that morning; at home, be grateful for the challenges and growth opportunities you face at work. Even in times of extreme difficulty—when losing a loved one, for example, or going through a period of financial strife—we can all always find things to be grateful for. How about a childhood memory, or the soft breeze on your skin, or the strength of your beating heart?
One of our favorite ways to practice gratitude at Hillside is alongside morning yoga at phone-free Silent Beach. The deliberate postures and calmness of mind that come with yoga create a state of blissful tranquility, the perfect starting point for practicing gratitude. Bask in your happy, healthy thoughts as you take a stroll along one of our three private beaches, or find inner peace in our surrounding woodlands. For an ever deeper immersion, Feel Good Week—our twice-annual, 6-day program incorporating yoga, meditation, conscious eating and much more—will have you feeling revitalized and excited about life.
Whatever your method, practicing gratitude has improved the quality of countless lives all around the world. Here’s hoping it will do the same for you.