Today marks the beginning of a new year, and is traditionally a time when many people make resolutions for the year ahead. If you are someone that likes resolutions and find that they work for you, that is great. I’m just not one of them. I start with great intentions, but somehow my effort wanes. I decided to try something different this year. Instead of making resolutions, today I am starting a practice of gratitude. My goal is to commit to a year or longer, but my initial goal is to commit to thirty days of practicing gratitude. My thought is that thirty days is doable, while a year feels a little daunting. My hope is that a thirty day gratitude practice yields such positive results that I will continue my practice beyond the thirty days with ease.
I started thinking about gratitude practices and what they might look like a long time ago. I have had fleeting experiences practicing gratitude, but never committed to a daily time of acknowledging gratitude for my life and all that encompassed it. Recently, I have been reading more and more about gratitude, and seeing messages for the positives of being grateful “pop” up in the most unusual of places in my daily life. I decided that it was no accident that the message of being grateful was making itself known in my life. I took it as a sign that I was to do something about it, and not just say, “how nice” and move on. My “doing something about it” is to start a gratitude practice in 2015.
Gratitude is such a simple word, yet it truly carries more meaning and impact than we realize. Scientific research has shown that gratitude holds the power to change our lives in extraordinary ways. Researchers across the globe have conducted studies to determine the positive benefits gratitude can have on people, and the results are consistently impressive.
In these studies, participants are asked to keep a daily gratitude journal over a specified period of time, and record the things in their life for which they are grateful. At the conclusion of these studies, researchers found that participants reported an increase in their level of happiness, a decrease in stress and depression, improved and sometimes transformed relationships, an increase in energy levels, relief from anxiety, lower blood pressure, a stronger desire to help others, and greater progress toward achieving personal goals. An exciting revelation about these studies is that the many benefits achieved through practicing gratitude seem to be not only profound, but long lasting as well. Scientists believe that practicing gratitude actually re-wires the brain and allows the world to be processed differently. In short, practicing gratitude is really good for you!
We have so many things in life to be grateful for, but we often don’t take the time to intentionally acknowledge them. I would like to invite you to join me and begin or renew a practice of gratitude, and recognize all the many benefits it can offer you and your life. Begin by setting aside time every day when you can be alone and quiet. You may want to light a candle (one idea is to select a special candle as your gratitude candle, and use it just during this quiet time) and allow yourself a few minutes to get centered and clear your mind. When you are ready, list at least ten things you are grateful for that day in a journal or notebook of your choice (you can even name it your Gratitude Journal). Repeat this practice each day for at least thirty days, and then assess the difference it has made in your life.
I look forward to seeing what a difference having a practice of gratitude makes in my life, and hope that it makes a significant difference in your life as well. My hope is that we will all be impressed by the results, and make practicing gratitude a long-term addition this year and in years to come.
“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart