It’s Thanksgiving here in the U.S. This time of year the word gratitude is thrown around a lot. Almost to the point that it loses its meaning. But, if we stop the holiday bustle train to pay attention to that word for a minute, it is powerful. There is a reason that gratitude comes up so often now. We are in Autumn, the season of the last harvest and there is much to appreciate in the final crops being pulled in and stored for the winter. At least before we had global distribution of food all year long that is. But, you get the gist and of course we celebrate the story of the pilgrims and native Americans coming together to feast. Lots of people take a minute today to think about what they are grateful for. But, research has shown us that the benefits of reflecting on our blessings is huge and can be beneficial all year long. Not just a moment of reflection on a single day.
The website Happier Human compiled the results of more than 40 studies on gratitude practices to declare that there are 31 separate benefits from a regular gratitude practice. And we aren’t talking about a huge time consuming commitment. Their research shows that spending five minutes per day can increase your long term well-being by 10%. Which they claim is the same impact as doubling your income. Go here to read the full article. In short they found that a gratitude practice leaves you more optimistic, less materialistic, more spiritual, less self-centered, and increases your self-esteem….all from 5 minutes per day. Sign me up.
So what does a five minute practice look like? The author of the article is offering a journal to help guide you through your practice. Following the outline could be really helpful. But, if you want a no cost approach you can grab a notebook and just jot down three things everyday that you are grateful for in your life. When you do, really think about the impact of each thing in your life. You are training your brain to look for what is good rather than looking for the negative; which by the way is how human brains are wired, we naturally have a negativity bias. Practicing looking for the good is retraining your brain. Another approach is to enlist a gratitude buddy. My good friend and I have a gratitude email thread that I think we have had going for 3 or more years now. One of us starts a new thread at the beginning of the year and we just respond to each other’s emails. Do we miss days? You bet! But the beauty of the buddy is if you forget to take time for your practice an email in your in-box is a great reminder.
The method that you choose isn’t important. Cultivating a daily practice (or nearly daily...no one is perfect!) is really what matters. Taking time to take stock of what is good in your life is really the key. AND if you are at a point where nothing feels worth celebrating this is exactly the time to bring in a gratitude practice. You can be thankful for clean/running water, waking up today, for rain, for clear skies, for your senses, for working limbs...there is always something to be grateful for and recognizing that is the key.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I am grateful for each and everyone of you that takes the time to read this.