Gratitude has slipped into mainstream consciousness as a panacea — a straight shot to joy and well-being without construction or detours. According to recent research, gratitude’s recent omnipresence in the personal development sphere is well deserved.
Gratitude is an acknowledgement of the goodness in your life, a general state of thankfulness or appreciation. When one practices the cultivation of gratitude, he or she often realizes that this goodness is mostly external, outside of one’s being. It helps people focus on what they have rather than what they lack. Many times, a gratitude practice acts as a conduit to something larger; the practitioner may connect to nature, spirit or God, creating a sense of belonging and well-being.
There have been many studies that have found links between a gratitude practice and overall well-being. Researchers at Indiana University found that subjects who participated in a simple gratitude letter writing exercise exhibited behavioral increases and significantly increased neural modulation in the brain by expressing gratitude.
There’s a hitch, however, albeit a small one. Famed scholar Brené Brown notes that there is a difference between having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ and actually practicing it. Simply believing you are grateful for circumstances does not bring joy – the famed increase in well-being is brought about by an actual practice. That is, claiming gratitude does not work unless it is accompanied by a behavior.
Yes, there is some work involved. Fortunately, there are many easy and fulfilling ways that gratitude can be cultivated. With regular practice, you will notice a subtle yet definitive shift in your outlook.
- Gratitude Journal – Simply write down three things you are grateful for every day. This can be a quick list or you can go deeper – it’s up to you. Anything can be on this list – a loved one, a sunset, appreciation for material things, opportunities that came to you. Include anything that may have touched your soul or made you feel a sense of wonder.
- Gratitude Art – Get inspired by the sense of connection that gratitude brings. Paint it or write it or dance it! Creative expression of gratitude will bring a sense of well-being and fulfillment.
- Gratitude Jar – Liz Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love and burgeoning personal development guru has written about her personal practice of gratitude. For years she has a Jar of Happiness where she would jot down on scrap paper things that made her happy that day and store them in a jar. This is a simple exercise that takes seconds and the result is a feeling of centeredness and appreciation.
- Listen to Brain Sync’s Grace and Gratitude Meditation. Hidden beneath the calming sounds of ocean waves, subliminal affirmations reach deep into your subconscious to radically change your perception of life. As your heart opens, deep reservoirs of gratitude bring blessings to all of your life.