Mindful Gratitude: Gratefulness has Benefits
When is the last time you said “Thank you” and really, really meant it? A lot of times these two words stumble out of my mouth without a second thought. It’s as common as as “Hello” and “Good-bye”. We may say it a dozen times a day but do we actually practice it? Do we really feel thankful?
With (Canadian) Thanksgiving just around the corner, now is a great time to remember how important it is to give genuine heartfelt thanks. When I was a child at Thanksgiving we would always go around the table one at a time and say what we were thankful for. A lot of times it was the standard “I’m thankful for my family” or “I’m thankful for this great meal”. Not that those aren’t great things to be thankful for but it was always a big picture item. I never said “I’m thankful that we have clean running water to wash the vegetables with”.
So where am I going with this? Simply put, it’s important, at Thanksgiving and all throughout the year, to continually give thanks for the big and small things in your life, because doing so enriches your life. A regular practice of mindful gratitude can go a long way to help you feel grateful.
In order to be grateful for the little things you need to notice them first and this is why the practices of mindfulness and gratitude go perfectly hand in hand. A grateful person is a mindful person and vice versa.
Mindfulness teaches you to see things as they are, rather than as they used to be (or how you would like them to be). For example, you may regularly get stuck in traffic on the way to work. Normally this is a huge headache that causes you anxiety and generally puts a damper on your entire day. However, when you become mindful of what that commute really means, instead of loathing it, it instead it becomes a time to reflect on how fortunate you are to have a working vehicle to get to work and a job to go to. Being mindful changes your perception of that experience and makes you grateful for it rather than resentful of it. It makes you realize that getting to work after the horrible commute is not the only thing to be thankful of. It’s also the car that got you there, the patient commuters you encountered, the friendly neighbourhood barista on the way in to work, etcetera and so on.
The Health Benefits of Mindful Gratitude
In a study conducted by Robert Emmons, Ph.D., a Professor of Psychology at UC Davis in California on the effects of gratitude, the study participants who practiced mindful gratitude experienced:
- Greater energy levels
- Better sleep (both in length and quality)
- Reduced blood pressure
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- Few occurrences of chronic pain
- Improved attentiveness
- Better overall emotional, physical, and mental health
- Increased joy
Saying “Thank you!” takes on a whole new meaning now doesn’t it? The next time you are feeling discouraged or frustrated by life take a few minutes to practice mindfulness for gratitude.
Here’s a simple mindful gratitude exercise to get you started
Just for today, practice finding something to be thankful about in every situation you find yourself in. Sometimes it can be a bit of a reach to express gratitude when you are having a bad day so you may have to stretch your imagination, for example if you stub your toe you could think “thank God I didn’t break it!”; or if you spill a cup of coffee it could be “I am glad it splashed on the floor not me!”.
Not only will practicing gratitude make a world of difference to your outlook, it will also help your emotional well-being. It may even enrich the lives of those you love and interact with as they feel your joy and gratitude for the little things they do for you.
This Thanksgiving, take the time to be thankful for everyone and everything in your life, no matter how big or small. It will be worth it.
Wishing you and yours a happy and thankful holiday – Anna