What is practicing gratitude?
Gratitude is something that anyone can practise, anywhere and at any time. It doesn’t cost anything and can be truly life-changing.
Practicing gratitude is reflective and involves recognising and appreciating anything and everything fostering contentment and a deeper connection to life's inherent value. It is a practice of focusing on what you have not what you lack.
When was the last time you stopped to smell the roses? To sit and say thanks? If you can’t remember, you’re missing out. Without gratitude and appreciation, regardless of your success, you may be in danger of creating an unhappy prison for yourself.
Take, for example, the words of Confucius “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.” What’s the point of moving mountains if you can’t enjoy the journey?
Stopping to reflect and appreciate the good things in life will impact your health and everyday enjoyment. Life is a journey to be enjoyed and appreciated, not endured. Life won’t be devoid of bad times and imperfections, but there’s beauty in that if you know how to look for it.
The latest research on gratitude.
The latest research shows that a gratitude practice can be one of the biggest game changers end of story, but when it comes to our brain it’s particularly interesting.
Research shows gratitude helps to reduce stress and anxiety while increasing happiness and optimism. A pretty good silver bullet right?
“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle, and the other is as if everything is a miracle.” ― Albert Einstein
In recent years, scientists have been studying the neuroscience of gratitude and how it affects the brain.
Key benefits to practicing gratitude
Gratitude increases activity in the prefrontal cortex.
The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain responsible for decision-making, emotional regulation, and empathy. Studies have shown that when we experience gratitude, there is increased activity in this area of the brain, which can lead to improved mental and emotional health.
This part of the brain is super important, as it’s the part of the brain responsible for purposeful actions towards higher-level goals, complex social information processing, introspection, and language.
Gratitude stimulates the production of dopamine and serotonin.
Who doesn’t like some happy chemicals? No… not that kind. Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters that are associated with feelings of pleasure and happiness. When we experience gratitude, the brain releases more of these chemicals, which can improve our mood and overall well-being.
Gratitude reduces the effects of stress on the body.
Stress can have negative effects on the body, including increased inflammation and a weakened immune system. You only need to look at how every Prime Minster of the UK seems to age faster than those around them. Studies have shown that practising gratitude can help reduce the effects of stress on the body, leading to improved physical health.
Gratitude can improve sleep quality.
Research has shown that people who practice gratitude before bed have better sleep quality and duration. This may be because gratitude can reduce stress and anxiety, both of which can interfere with sleep.
Gratitude can improve self-esteem.
When we feel grateful for the positive aspects of our lives, we are more likely to feel good about ourselves and our accomplishments. This can lead to improved self-esteem and self-confidence. With more of those we generally accomplish more and then the cycle continues!
Gratitude can improve resilience.
Resilience is the ability to bounce back from difficult situations. Studies have shown that people who practice gratitude are more resilient and better able to cope with challenges and adversity. With more resilience, you will be able to return to your baseline level of happiness quicker than your average catastrophiser.
Building gratitude into your daily life.
By incorporating gratitude into our daily lives, we can reap the many benefits of this powerful emotion physically and mentally.
We have found that it is like building muscle. The more you train it, the stronger it gets. Gratitude being a core part of the Evolve Journal we have seen people’s entire outlook shift during their Evolve Journey from pessimistic and negative to a perspective that looks first the upside. This shift in perspective lifts a massive weight off people’s shoulders and will start to create all sorts of positive feedback loops with their other actions. For example, they show up and appreciate their relationships which in turn strengthens them.
To try gratitude today and build a daily habit, just like Confucius says, start with just one small stone. Get a pen and paper and write down some things that make you smile. Try to think about what you feel gratitude for. It could be your good health, a great evening with friends, your chance to travel this month, your new comfy slippers you name it, big or small, it's yours to appreciate. Do this daily, and don’t worry if some things repeat. Practicing gratitude plays a key part in achieving happiness. This is why we have included a specific section to remind you to practice this skill in our journal.
If you want to make it a daily habit then habit stacking is your friend. Find something you do every day without question. Put your piece of paper and pen next to it to serve as your reminder. An example would be leaving your house keys on top of your journal.
Next time you get shit on by a bird, remember they’re just bestowing good fortune on you. There’s always a silver lining. Some might even leave a stain.