The holidays always make us a little more thankful for those around us and for all the blessings in our lives. I spend a lot more time writing heart-felt notes at Christmas than the rest of year. But what would happen if we did that on a regular-basis - spend time telling those around us that we care about them? That they are appreciated? Telling the universe that we are thankful for all the things in our life? What would happen?
I don't have the answer to that. I could guess at an answer, though: I imagine our lives would look different next year if we spent a whole year in active gratitude. I imagine we'd be healthier and less stressed. I imagine we would feel a lot a lot happier. Before I can explain why I think that, let's start with a simple definition of gratitude.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is simply the act of noticing and appreciating someone or something.
We all probably practice gratitude more than we think. For example, many families have a tradition at Thanksgiving of going around the table to say something you are thankful for. Many people meditate and pray about the blessings they have in their lives. Many people send flowers on birthdays or anniversaries and thank you cards after receiving gifts. But did you know that the act of being grateful can have a profound impact on you - your day, your attitude, even your body chemistry?
How Does Gratitude Change Us?
More and more research is being conducted every day into the power of positive thinking. Scientists have shown a correlation between positive thoughts and such things as brain growth, higher immune responses, and increased happiness.
In fact, research indicates that expressing gratitude stimulates the areas of our brains that are responsible for the regulation of stress and pleasure in such a way as to decrease stress and increase pleasure. In other words, focusing on the positives makes you a happier, more positive person. How cool is that?! You literally can change your attitude by thinking happy thoughts. (If only that could also help us fly, Peter Pan.) You can read more about recent studies in this NY Times op-ed article - or do a quick google search.
Think about it for a moment. Who is the happiest person you know? The most content? Do they express gratitude often? Do they take time to say genuine thank yous? My guess is that yes, they express gratitude often with those around them. The good news is, you too can be like them.
How Do I Become Grateful?
Well, like any other habit, you need to practice. Start small. Try writing down one thing you are thankful for each day. It could be anything - you found the exact paper you needed when you needed it, your coffee was perfect this morning, you had gas in the car, the sun was shining. Whatever it is, write it down. Every day, write it down.
As you get the hang of it, start expanding your thoughts of gratitude to 2+ things per day and begin to include gratitude for the people around you. It might be your co-worker that is always smiling. It might be your significant other that did the dishes or made the bed. It might be the complete stranger that held the door for you in the pouring rain. It might be the friend that answered the phone at 3am when you were bawling because you and your fiance had a fight. The people around us are amazing and do some pretty awesome things for us - we just have to notice.
When you feel ready, start sharing your gratitude with the people close to you. I love sending short text messages or mailing hand-written notes or picking up something at the store. Anything to let them know I was thinking about them and am grateful they are in my life. Sometimes the gratitude has a specific point - like when I'm thankful for my friend who watched by furbaby while I was out of town - and sometimes the gratitude is vague - like when I'm just feeling happy and content.
Go on, give it a try! I promise, you won't regret it.
Now, it's time for me to share a little gratitude with you. Thank you so much for reading this, our inaugural blog post. We can't express how thankful we are for cheerleaders like you. You make our lives brighter and more complete just by being here and being you. No matter where you are in the world, we want to take a moment to say...
THANK YOU FOR BEING YOU!
Leave a comment and tell us what you are thankful for today.
This post originally appeared on PeonyPrintshop.com on November 23, 2016