Embodying Thankfulness in Gratitude

Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity...it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
— Melody Beattie

Our fast-paced lives can often be encouraged and perpetuated by the need to acquire and maintain a certain lifestyle that, many times, is unsustainable and unsatisfying.

We’re easily distracted from the simple beauties, interactions, and comforts that surround us everyday.

Over the past several years, I’ve noticed a shift and a broadened awareness in the concept of gratitude.

What is gratitude? How is it different from being thankful?

When I think about the difference between showing gratitude and being thankful, I see it as a difference between actions and words. It’s a matter of saying “thank you” versus giving thanks through action--it’s embodying thankfulness.

Research over the past several years suggests that expressing gratitude is linked to a variety of improved physical, psychological, and social health benefits for both healthcare providers and patients.

Some of these benefits include decreased stress levels, lowered blood pressure, better sleep quality, stronger immune systems, and increased feelings of joy, happiness, forgiveness, and compassion.

Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., a leading scientific expert on gratitude, sees the practice of gratitude as having two components: affirming the goodness in our lives, and exploring where that goodness comes from.

When I reflect on gratitude and the sensation I feel within my body, I’m reminded of the work of Dr. Masaru Emoto and his water crystal photography.

The basic idea is that when water (remember that the human body is 75% water) is exposed to positivity (words, thoughts, music, etc.) it creates beautiful crystalline structures, and when it’s exposed to negativity, it creates distorted and asymmetrical shapes. This may seem a little “woo-woo” to some, but hey, you can’t really practice gratitude with judgement, right? ;)

Here are 8 tips to start implementing gratitude into your weekly (or daily) routine:

1) Start with spending 5 minutes writing about the things for which you are grateful. It might be easier to write at night so you can include events or observations from the day.

2) Set an alarm on your watch, calendar, or smartphone to help remind you to write in your journal once or twice per week. Also write down joyful experiences as they happen so you don’t forget them later in the week!

3) Beginning with the basic material things you’re grateful for might be an easy jumping off point — such as having a home, a warm bed, food, etc. Once that flow starts to slow down, try shifting the focus to people, places, experiences, and situations that bring you joy and happiness.

4) Try avoiding repeats. This will probably make journaling a challenge as times passes, but challenging yourself in this way will allow your awareness and sense of gratitude to flourish.

5) Instead of tallying up all of the good people and things in your life, reflect deeply on how these people and things bring you joy, and what your life would be like without them.

6) For a real challenge, try to find something to appreciate in the people and things you don’t like. When we’re able to grasp onto a glimmer of light in those things and people, it becomes much easier to deflect the stressors and improve interactions, which will help shift your perceptions and bring you more happiness.

7) Don’t forget to be grateful for yourself and your abilities! It’s an aspect of self-care and an absolute necessity while on your unique path to wellness. Appreciate all that your body and mind can do—whether it’s walking, talking, reading, dancing, swimming, or scaling a mountain.

8) Get creative! Gratitude journals don’t have to be full of lists and words. Fill yours up with keepsakes of your favorite moments—concert ticket stubs, restaurant menus, photos, etc.—or other things like drawings and collages that allow you to express your joy.

Forget yesterday—it has already forgotten you. Don’t sweat tomorrow—you haven’t even met. Instead, open your eyes and your heart to a truly precious gift—today.
— Steve Maraboli

As a gift of gratitude to you, I’d love to share my free online course. It’s called “Creating Healthy Change, That Lasts," and it’ll walk you through the easy step-by-step process of implementing new routines.

In health and gratitude,

Dr. Michelle and the VWS Team
(360) 828-1429