This Thursday in the United States we celebrated the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving is our favorite holiday because it celebrates an attitude of gratitude—one of the most important practices to cultivate as a Creator.
Gratitude is an emotional response to what you appreciate and is a choice you make. You can choose to be grateful…..or not.
While gratitude is an emotional response focusing on what you have, thankfulness is its outward expression. You may express thanks in words, gestures, a gift, or a warm embrace. The ritual of giving thanks further expands the feeling of gratitude.
A gratitude practice creates a whole host of positive emotional and physical benefits, from better sleep to reduced inflammation, lower blood pressure, and a more fulfilled sense of well-being.
Social scientists have also studied what emotions block gratitude and they are similar to the emotions that keep us stuck in the Dreaded Drama Triangle (DDT). Most noted “gratitude blockers” are the emotions of envy, narcissism, cynicism, and overly materialistic values.
The late 19th century psychologist, Williams James, said: “My experience is what I agree to attend to. Only those items which I notice shape my mind.”
When you notice what you are grateful for you are, in fact, shaping your mind. Many studies have shown that the practice of being grateful on a regular basis increases brain activity in the prefrontal cortex and areas of the brain associated with decision making, sensitivity to the intentions of others, and encouraging positive social relationships.
The daily practice of gratitude keeps the heart open and humble. Without gratitude, the grasping mind focuses on lack and limitation, which can lead to self-centeredness and feeling victimized by even the most mundane situations.
Researchers have found that increasing your focus on what you are grateful for, plus using fewer negative words when you speak and write, has the strongest positive impact on the brain.
In their study, they followed up six months later and found that the people who used words of gratitude—and caught and redirected their negative thoughts—had a lasting impact on brain function. This lasting effect on the brain allows you to make better decisions and engage in more positive conversations.
Here are a few tips that will support you in developing a gratitude practice:
- Just before you go to sleep, reflect on the events of the day through a lens of gratitude. List a minimum of 3 things or situations you are grateful for. No situation or event is too small to appreciate.
- Catch yourself when you use negative words in your speech or internal talk. When you notice a negative word, consider the situation and find something positive, even in the suffering. For instance, being stuck in traffic can be a “gift” of slowing down and listening to beautiful music.
- In the morning, set an intention to be aware during the day of what you appreciate.
At work and home, become an advocate for focusing on what is working, rather than on what is not working. Consider starting your business meetings with an “appreciation practice.” This might be a moment to acknowledge a job well done or asking what has worked well since the last meeting. Clients report the mood of the meeting is more positive, people work better together, and conversations are more productive when meetings begin with an appreciation practice.