The Transformative Power of Gratitude
Holidays are often times we put effort into acknowledging things we are grateful for. I still remember the joy of making Thanksgiving cards in second grade.
Outside of celebratory times and achievements gratitude may seem trite, but there is growing research that shows expressing gratitude transforms our brain and enhances mental, physical and relational wellbeing. Being grateful also impacts our overall experience of happiness, and these effects tend to be long-lasting.
When I started diving deeper into the subject of gratitude, I was apprehensive that taking time during my day to share something I was grateful for would accumulate into anything greater. The act felt like a minor gesture.
The truth is, a few small moments of gratitude are capable of triggering a longer lasting grateful mood. In other words, gratitude triggers positive feedback loops.
When we make a conscious effort to practice gratitude, we start to notice more things to feel good about throughout our day.
Gratitude doesn't remove all pain from our human experience, but it certainly influences our happiness and changes the way we relate to unpleasant experiences.
Think about how you relate to rain. It’s something out of our control that is necessary for our survival, yet it often causes us to complain and be in a sour mood. Gratitude is an antidote for the irritation that may swell up when it rains and during other parts of our lives that cause us to complain or feel resentment.
Boredom is another experience that can be transformed with gratitude. If I’m sitting by myself with nothing to do, and no device to distract me, I might have the urge to do something or feel like I’m wasting my time. But bringing attention to how my body feels, the sensation of breathing, sounds, lights, colors all open me up to the preciousness of the moment. Right now there are zillions of things taking place in my body to help me survive and thrive. Gratitude allows me to realize how much of a miracle simply being alive is.
Gratitude can even be practiced in our struggles. I’m not suggesting that we need to rejoice for the problems in our lives. But gratitude can turn challenges into teachers and help us notice opportunities for growth and appreciation in the midst of pain.
Taking a few minutes each day to write down or think about things we’re grateful for is a small act that has been shown to have transformative effects. Gratitude helps us find love in the chaos.
Kyle Somersall is the founder of my innerglow. He’s a former elementary school teacher and current meditation teacher. He’s interested in bringing a focus on mental health into schools and building community around mindfulness and human connection.