There is an art to giving thanks, sadly it has mostly become a lost art. Certainly, we all learned our manners as a child, how to politely say “please” and “thank you”. Yet, the routine habits we build instilling polite manners are very distant from true gratitude. Gratitude is a practice best modeled, not something that cannot be lectured or memorized. Our current lifestyle of “go, go, go” & “busy, busy, busy” leave us on such a hamster wheel that often the opportunity to take a moment to be truly grateful is rare. From my personal experience, forgetting to keep gratitude a priority, makes for a very unsatisfactory life and a pretty precarious mental state.
It has become common to hear that our current generation is selfish and has a sense of entitlement that appears ingrained. I believe that entitlement can be combated with a deeply felt sense of gratitude. I often hear that those who exhibit a sense of entitlement must be very selfish, and yet I think that gratitude is at its very heart a selfish act. I also think it is time for many of us to be more selfish, to actively do things that make us feel joyful.
As I witness behaviors that on the surface do seem to be very entitled, I wonder if it could be a lack of self that drives these behaviors? Is it maybe an attempt to find meaning in the external world that drives us to presume that we must have every possible luxury item and new gadget in order to find contentment? Like so many other coping mechanisms, could entitlement simply be another way to try and deal with a total disconnection to our true and authentic selves? A defense against our own believe that we are not enough on our own, that our worth is based on having more than we had before.
The truth is that we are ultimately in charge, our mind can only see what we allow it to see. If we are always looking at our problems, we will only see problems, if we only focus on what we lack that is all we will see what we do not have. The reverse is also true, if you make a concerted effort to see everything you have, you will continue to find that you have more then you ever imagined. Therefore, gratitude is, in fact, a fully selfish act and that is the beauty of it. By making every effort to be grateful on a daily basis you can find so much more then you started with.
It is backed by science that Gratitude can do some amazing things for you, here are the 6 benefits that have been proven:
- Good for your Brain – feelings of gratitude increase our dopamine levels, creating a natural high and inducing happiness and motivating us to continue to show gratitude.
- Decrease Pain – Studies show that ill patients that practice gratitude daily typical feel a 10% decrease in pain levels.
- Sweeter Dreams – Practicing Gratitude increases the quality of sleep; decreases the amount of time it takes to fall asleep and lengthens the duration of sleep.
- Stressbusters Galore – Subjects who routinely practice gratitude dropped their cortisol levels by an average of 23%
- Decreased Anxiety and Depression – Keeping a gratitude journal and writing daily has been shown to increase long term happiness by 10% and decrease depression by 30% if the practice was kept up. Changes in the medial prefrontal cortex could be seen and the subjects of the study were more willing to be helpful, empathetic and kind.
- Spiked Energy and Vitality – it simply makes us stronger, our immune system is boosted, our heart health is increased and we are more relaxed and less stressed.
Practice makes perfect and gratitude is like any other skill, the more you practice, the stronger your skill will become. Start small and build from there, wake up and take a moment to be thanks full for another day you get to live, or the sun as it creeps through your window into your room, or maybe just that yesterday is over.
In my darkest days, the energy it took to be thankful for even one small thing was massive. When you are in a state of pure survival it is very, very hard to find the energy to grateful. Some days I couldn’t get there, I couldn’t raise my head long enough to be aware of my blessings. The thing is that I have children and I know that I had to show them that counting your blessings is integral to getting through the pain. I began a daily practice of saying out loud what we each felt were our blessings and then we began an exploration of how we could be blessings to other people. It is amazing how much better you feel about yourself when you can see the value you add to other’s days.
Today I am incredibly grateful for the amazing people I have in my life. My Tribe, who have supported me through the ugly and rejoiced at my successes. I am forever in awe of the Ocean, so powerful and yet so peaceful, I always find inner peace when I am at the ocean’s edge. I celebrate my own strength and resilience that have guided me not only through the dark times but also given me the drive to succeed and grow and become someone I am very proud to be. Finally, just today for the very first time, I can be truly grateful for all the little, and sometimes big, disasters that have brought me to where I am at this very moment. Life is Brutalful, a term coined by the amazing Glennon Doyle author of Love Warrior and may other great books. It is brutal and beautiful sometimes all at once and sometimes one or the other, and if you can add gratitude into the mix, then quite sincerely you are winning on every possible front.
~Namaste: Michiko @SweetSerenityYoga