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  • Monika Getty

Practicing Gratitude

Some days are really tough to get through; our alarm doesn't go off, discover there's no milk for our morning coffee/tea, construction holds us up so we are late, spill something on ourselves at work, or we just don't have the energy and willpower to do what we have to do every day. It's easy to get sucked into the negative spiral our minds can take and feel like everything is going wrong, that people are crummy, that the world is a horrible place. What is hard to do is to stop, give your brain a check, and try to feel gratitude for what we do have.

Practicing gratitude or thankfulness for what we have doesn't come as easily as complaining does; it's easier for our minds to think in negative ways than positive ones, especially if we've gone through something traumatic. Think of your brain as a vast forest that you walk through every day; as time goes on you create paths through the forest. Some paths are well worn so that you don't even have to think about them or pay attention to where your feet lead you; other paths are barely visible and not often used. The brain is the same, creating neural pathways and connections with repetitive actions and thinking. If you tend to think negatively, it's so easy to let your mind just get stuck in a whirlpool of negative thinking and following those old pathways. It's really hard to stop, take control and tell your brain, "No, we are not going that way, we're going to try going this way instead," and create new, happier pathways.

Gratitude is an emotion expressing appreciation for what one has, opposed to the consumerism emphasis of what you think you want or need. Being grateful, especially the expression of it, is associated with increased energy and optimism. According to the Harvard Medical School, gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what someone receives, regardless of whether it is tangible or intangible. Several gratitude studies show that practicing gratitude can greatly benefit our physical, emotional, mental and social well-being. Check out this article about all the benefits of practicing gratitude:

The habit of gratitude can start very simply: when you sit down to eat dinner, say one thing that you are grateful for happening that day; if you are eating with others have them do the same. Doing this one thing every day can completely change your and others energy to be more positive and benefit everyone.

Other ways in which you can practice gratitude can include:

* Be more observational and notice the beauty around you and in nature every day

* Tell someone you love them and how much you appreciate them

* Write a letter to someone (a lost art!) to tell them how grateful you are for them

* Start a gratitude journal and write in it every day

* Do an act of kindness every day

* Smile more often

* Take a walk and feel grateful for what you notice: the fresh air, the warm sun, the trees

* Set reminders on your phone; use technology to your advantage to remind yourself every afternoon to be grateful

* Reward effort; if someone does something nice for you, do something nice for them

* Create visual reminders to practice gratitude by posting quotes and pictures around your home

* Be thankful when you learn something new

* Avoid negative media whether it's the news, social media, tv shows or movies

* Volunteer or donate

* Say thank you for the little things your loved ones do for you, things you normally take for granted

For more inspiration, check out :

Being mindful and thankful of the good in our lives allows us to share the good with others and be open to the wonder and beauty around us; that by itself makes it worth the effort of practicing gratitude daily, don't you think?

"Grateful living is important in the world because in our constant pursuit of more and better we can easily lose sight of the riches that lay right in front of us and within us." Guri Mehta

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