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10 things nobody told you about practicing gratitude

Find out how practicing gratitude enhances your brain chemistry and helps you deal with adversity.

What you focus on comes to pass. When you practice gratitude you are training your mind to be more positive and this has some interesting physical implications. Practicing gratitude and positive thinking directly affects your brain chemistry. By focusing on gratitude and happiness, you control the release of certain chemicals and neurotransmitters that influence how you feel both physically and mentally. Let’s take a look at how that works. 

Dopamine and serotonin

Focusing on happiness and gratitude leads to the release of two “feel good” neurotransmitters – dopamine and serotonin. These two neurotransmitters are responsible for warm feelings. Yes, there are other ways to get them like exercise and chocolate for example. Focusing on positivity, making a conscious effort to be more grateful and happier changes the balances of neurotransmitters in your body and your brain. 

Fewer Stress Hormones 

When you are anxious or scared, the body releases stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol. That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It helps you react fast when you’re about to be hit by a car and make you run faster when you need to get away from someone. But it works against you when it’s a response to something that isn’t a physical danger. Like worrying about contracting COVID-19 or what your co-worker thinks of you. 

Stress hormones can lead to weight gain, depression, anxiety, and they take a toll on your heart. One of the most powerful strategies to reduce stress is practicing gratitude and positive thinking. So choose happiness and know that you are doing wonders for your mental and physical health. 

So what’s the bottom line? When you are mindful of all of the things you are grateful for in your life then you can learn to appreciate all the good even in the midst of the bad and cultivate happiness. Stop waiting for the right person, the right circumstances. Don’t wait for happiness to find you. Be happy right now. In this moment. And use gratitude to help you get there. 

Adversity – Staying Positive When Life Falls Apart

We take a lot of good things for granted in our everyday life. A roof over our heads, a steady paycheck, a loving partner, the ability to go out for a run on the weekends. The specifics vary, but one of the big advantages of modern lives is the many awesome things we can count on. We’re not used to falling short, so when something happens and our life starts to fall apart, it’s easy to fall into thinking patterns that focus on lack and despair. 

Sometimes the bad things are a result of choices we made. Sometimes they are outside of our control. In either case, it is up to us to decide how we react to each crisis. One piece of advice that is important to remember no matter what adversity you face is to make sure you don’t forget about how blessed you really are. Gratitude can turn what we have into enough. 

There’s a quote I love and would like to share with you by Melody Beattie. Here it is: 

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” 

Think about how you can start to do this in your everyday life. A good place to start is to simply take a deep breath and pause for a moment when things go wrong and everything is starting to feel overwhelming. Then come up with one little thing you are grateful for during this time. It can be something as simple as being able to breathe fresh, clean air, or living to fight another day. 

Find that something and start to build on it. What else are you grateful for? Keep making that mental list until the desperation starts to lift and you can start to think clearly. When you do, you can start to find your way out, no matter how bad things seem at first. And remember, you never know what good might come from the struggle you are facing right now. 

But What If You’re Stuck In Negativity?

Practicing gratitude and focusing on positivity is easier said than done. Especially if you are struggling with anxiety and depression. If you ever find yourself spiraling into the deep pit of depression then get help if you need it.  There’s nothing wrong with talking to a counselor or getting therapy. It’s the smart thing to do. 

When things aren’t quite that bad, there’s a lot you can do to get yourself unstuck from all that negativity. Start by acknowledging them and putting them into words. How exactly do you feel? Is it anger or annoyance? Frustration or disappointment? Try to be specific. Dig deep. Yes, it can be painful and some people prefer to avoid thinking about these feelings, but the first step to getting yourself unstuck is determining exactly where you are emotionally. 

Once you find the true reason for your negative feelings, you can start to work to resolve them. What that looks like will vary from case to case. The important takeaway here is that it gives you something specific and meaningful to do. You no longer feel out of control or helpless. It’s something you can work with and that alone will help you think more positively. 

In addition, it allows you to distance yourself a little from the negative feelings. You may still be upset with your spouse, but it also gives you the space to remember everything you love about him or her. It gives you the space to act outside of the negativity and have a good relationship while you work things out. And sometimes, it may give you the mental space you need to realize that it is up to you to decide if you want to continue to dwell in the negativity, or choose a route of forgiveness. You can’t change everything or everyone. Sometimes your path toward positivity is to acknowledge your negative feelings and then let them go. 

Of course all of this is easier said than done. A journal can be a great tool to help you along the way. Try talking to a close friend or confidant when you feel stuck and you can’t see a path towards positivity. An outside perspective can give a lot of clarity. Meditation can be helpful as well. 

Last but not least, surround yourself with positivity.  Get outside and enjoy nature. Spend some time helping others. And don’t forget to remind yourself regularly of everything you have to be grateful for. 

Turning Gratitude Outward – Sharing With The World

Practicing gratitude regularly has a bit impact on your life, your health, and your mental and emotional wellbeing. But it doesn’t end there. It will also have a big impact on those around you and the world at large when you start to turn your gratitude outwards and share it far and wide. 

Now let’s take this a step further. What if, instead of simply practicing gratitude for yourself, you take it out to the world at large? What could happen? What force of good could you create? There is no telling how many lives you could influence for the better. Let’s take a look at how you, I, and everyone else reading this can start to turn their gratitude outward and share it with those around them. 

Random Acts of Kindness 

Do something kind for a stranger. This can be something as simple as giving an open and honest smile to a stranger on the street or a few kind words and a compliment for the cashier ringing up your groceries. Or it could be taking a meal to an elderly neighbor or buying a drink for the person behind you in the coffee shop drive-thru line. Make it a goal to do something kind for someone each day and do it intentionally. 

Respect And Thank Those Who Serve You 

There are so many people in our communities that serve us from first responders to the waitress at your favorite restaurant. Make it a point to be respectful and thank them with words, with actions, and in the case of that waitress with a generous tip. Show them how grateful you are for everything they do to make your life easier.  

Volunteer In Your Community 

What better way to show your gratitude than to give your time and your skills. There are many opportunities for anyone to volunteer in various projects and for a variety of different causes. See what’s available around you and make an effort to put in some time to volunteer each month. Not only is it a wonderful way to give back and spread gratitude, but you’ll be amazed at how much you get out of it. 

Develop Deeper Relationships 

Last but not least, I would like to encourage you to work on developing deeper relationships. You will have a stronger sense of gratitude and lead by example when you make the time to listen and actively work on coming closer to the people you love. 

Now that you have some ideas, the ball is in your court. What will you do today, this week, or this month to spread gratitude in your own circle of influence? Go out there and make an impact. Make the world a better and more grateful place. 

Living Abundantly By Showing And Sharing Gratitude 

Would you like to live abundantly full of happiness and contentment? How about a life with excellent physical and mental health? Greatly increase your chances of that happening by showing and sharing gratitude. That’s right, something as simple as practicing thankfulness and expressing how grateful you are for the people and things you have in your life has a powerful impact. Here are some simple things you can do starting today to show your gratitude. 

  1. Tell the people you love how grateful you are for them. We often take the ones closest to us for granted. Make a point to do it regularly and be specific to make it meaningful. 
  2. Think about the people who challenge you. Express your gratitude for how they help you grow and make you stronger. 
  3. Take a few minutes each week to write a letter or email to a person who has made a difference to you at one point or another. This could be a teacher, a mentor, an old friend … anyone you can think of. 
  4. Give the gift of your time to someone to show without words how grateful you are to have them in your life. This is particularly important for the elderly people in your life. Your time with them is limited. Make the most of it. 
  5. Start using a gratitude journal and make the time to write down three things you are grateful for every single day. It will brighten even your worst days and put things into perspective. 
  6. Forgive yourself when you don’t reach all your goals, or things don’t go your way. Be grateful for what you have and what you are learning from each experience. 
  7. Compliment the people around you. Make them feel good about themselves. It’s a powerful way to show gratitude in an indirect way. Small, meaningful gifts and acts of service do the same. 
  8. Pay it forward. Do something nice for someone you work with or a total stranger. Random acts of kindness are a wonderful way to spread gratitude and bring more positivity into the world. 
  9. Give a hug and a kind word to someone who’s struggling. Show them through physical affection that you’re there for them and grateful to have them in your life. 
  10. Show your body and mind gratitude for what they do for you day in and day out by taking care of yourself and investing in regular self-care. 

By Addy

Inspirational blogger, previous Yahoo Voices writer. Meditation practitioner.

2 replies on “10 things nobody told you about practicing gratitude”

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