What is a gratitude attitude?
As we are deep into all of the joy and stress that the holiday season offers, it seems like a good time of the year to take a moment to breathe, and simply focus on and be grateful for the things that make our lives better. Mired in the difficult day-to-day life when living with lupus or any other chronic or invisible illness, the task of “seeing the cup as half-full” instead of half-empty is not always easy.
So what makes it easier to “look on the bright side”? For each individual, that ‘thing’ may be different. For one it is a pain free day, for another it is that all of the houseplants have survived the whole year. Not to be flippant, but it really can be as easy as that. No one can say what it is or where it is that we can find things for which to be grateful, but one thing is sure, there is ALWAYS something. It can be as simple as noticing the sunrise, the way a leaf blows in the wind, or the smile on a child’s face. But there is always something.
Gratitude is an attitude, it’s a choice that can have a positive impact on one’s well-being. There are proven health benefits to this positive thinking or feeling of gratitude. Studies suggest that positive thinkers are healthier, less stressed, have increased levels of energy, and report overall well-being. Studies have also shown that people who keep a gratitude journal report fewer illness symptoms, feel better about their lives as a whole and are optimistic about the future.
Advanced research from the Institute of HeartMath and elsewhere has provided evidence that gratitude is not simply a nice sentiment or feeling. Sustained feelings of gratitude have real health benefits. Here are three proven benefits:
- Biochemical changes – Increased production of DHEA, the “anti-aging hormone.” And improved hormonal balance.
- Increased positivity – Daily gratitude exercises can bring about a greater level of positive feelings, according to researchers from the University of Miami and the University of California, Davis, who studied this process in 157 individuals over 13 days.
- Boost to the immune system – A proven increase in the IgA antibody, which serves as the first line of defense against pathogens (agents that cause disease.)
Here are five ways to get started on your road having a gratitude attitude:
- Keep a gratitude journal- Possibly the most beneficial tool for increasing your level of gratitude. Record three to five things daily for which you are grateful. Choose morning or night, or whatever time suits you best and make it part of your daily routine. “Every night list five things that you are grateful for. What it will begin to do is change your perspective of your day and your life.”~ Oprah Winfrey
- Choose a gratitude partner- Just like a book club, or exercise partner, we are more likely to be successful in certain endeavors with social support. Remember that negativity is contagious, so surrounding yourself with those who seem mostly ungrateful can absolutely affect your own perceptions. Instead, choose to surround yourself with positive and grateful people and you may find your own perceptions changing.
- Make a public announcement- Behaviors are more likely to change with public accountability. Announce to those around you who you know and trust that you are working to make a shift in your way of thinking. If you ask, they may help remind you if you are ‘caught’ in a negative thinking pattern.
- Use visual reminders- It is easy to stay caught in the pattern of negative thinking. Strategically placed post-it note reminders to be grateful may be all you need to snap back into positive thinking. For example, a post it on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror with gratitude quotes (find some below) or set a reminder on your phone several times a day to remind you think positive thoughts?
- Monitor your self-talk- Remember to monitor your inner conversation. You can easily change your mood with positive or negative self-talk. Which are you choosing most often? Make the choice to be kind to yourself.
Gratitude does not always come naturally and needs to be worked at. Like any skill, it takes practice. Waking with an attitude of gratitude can help color, in the most beautiful of ways, your daily life and bring renewed hope even to those who are feeling hopeless. With that all being said, we would like to share some of our favorite gratitude quotes in the hopes that you will be inspired to create and embrace a new way of thinking.
Ten gratitude quotes to get you started:
- Gratitude turns what we have into enough. ~Unknown
- Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul. ~ Henry Beecher
- When life gets sour…sweeten it with gratitude. ~Unknown
- Gratitude is the sign of noble souls. ~ Aesop
- Gratitude is a practice, make it a priority. ~Unknown
- May your day be filled with an attitude of joy, love, and gratitude. ~Unknown
- The struggle ends when gratitude begins. ~Neale Donald Walsh
- We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures. ~Thornton Wilder
- When you arise in the morning, think of what a precious privilege it is to be alive- to breathe, to think, to enjoy, to love. ~Marcus Aurelius
- It is not happy people who are thankful, it is thankful people who are happy. ~Unknown
The mind/body connection cannot be underrated. Positivity can have a powerful effect on your physical well-being. This blog is not intending to give advice to simply look at life “through rose colored glasses”, but more intended to help you face challenges with a positive yet realistic approach. Bad things do happen. Bad days happen and sometimes it is hard to see the light. Try to practice trusting yourself, accepting your feelings, not being self-critical, and finding things to be grateful for even in those moments of darkness.
What is there to lose by trying this shift in thinking? Use the above techniques for one week and see if anything perceptibly changes for you. For those of you out there who already practice this, please share your comments below as to how the gratitude attitude has helped you in your life and in what ways you practice.