“Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.”Henry Ward Beecher
With the chaos that swirls around the world each day, it is easy to feel overwhelmed. Over 40 million Americans suffer from anxiety each year, and the number continues to climb. It could be because, even though treatment for anxiety is available, only around 37% of people seek treatment.
If you are looking to heal from anxiety, there are numerous treatments available, from meditation to medication. However, one way that you can take back a little bit of control right now is through an unexpected method: practicing gratitude.
“Gratitude and anxiety cannot coexist.”
While it can seem daunting to count blessings when the world seems to be spiraling, building your gratitude muscle is a vital step in healing. According to Positive Psychology, practicing gratitude can actually change the way our brains function. “By reducing the stress hormones and managing the autonomic nervous system functions,” they write, “gratitude significantly reduces symptoms and anxiety and depression.”
There is science behind gratitude. Here is a great article from Thrive, How gratitude puts you on a fast-track to a well-lived life. The article is by David DeSteno. “For the Ancient Greeks, virtue wasn’t a goal in and of itself, but rather a route to a life well lived. By being honest and generous, embodying diligence and fortitude, showing restraint and kindness, a person would flourish – coming to live a life filled with meaning and finding an enduring, as opposed to ephemeral, happiness.”
“One of the greatest pitfalls with gratitude is that we often think it requires no intentional practice and effort. But developing the gratitude habit requires more initial effort than we might release.” – Cylon George “Most people who want to build their physical muscles are typically motivated by the promised benefits.”
The list of living a life full of gratitude includes- improved physical health, improved psychological health, enhanced empathy, reduced aggression, better sleep, improved self-esteem, and increased mental strength to name a few.
Looking to be more conscious of the good in your life? Here’s how to start building your gratitude muscle.
Keep a gratitude journal. The easiest way to start practicing gratitude is to regularly jot down the good things that happen to you. Pick a time each day–mornings, evenings, lunch, right before bed–to write down five small goods that you can name off the top of your head. Even acknowledging small victories can be an important step in rewiring your brain.
Grow a Garden. A gift that the garden gives is gratitude. The experience of growing a garden gives you the opportunity to co-create with nature, appreciate growth, slow down, be present, and give thanks for the harvest. Here is a great article on 5 Ways Growing Grows Gratitude and happiness, and living a life of gratitude can change your life.
Take notice of the life around you. Even in concrete jungles, life blooms all around us. Be sure that you are getting into nature each day, experiencing the cycles of growth that keep the world moving.
A great way to cultivate life first-hand is through gardening. Gardenuity’s fool-proof Garden Kits are an easy way to make sure you have life to be grateful for each and every day.
Try pro-con-pro. It’s easy to get into negative thought patterns in our own heads. Once we fall into less-than-positive thinking, it can be hard to clear our head to make way for the good. Instead of being hard on yourself about negativity, try reframing your criticism. Think about one “pro” of a situation, make room for a little bit of criticism then end the internal dialogue with a pro. Even if the cons far outweigh the pros, practicing looking on the bright side is essential to healing.
Say thank you. There are a million times a day to say thank you–and you should take advantage of all of them. Thank your Uber driver, your co-worker, your spouse, your best friend–anyone who has contributed to your life in a positive way. Say it with a smile. Really mean it. Once you get in the habit of letting others know how grateful you are, you’ll be shocked at the good that starts coming your way.
Remember, gratitude is simply defined as the state of being grateful. We can all grow gratitude for ourselves and those around us…and gratitude can change the world.