The word appreciate has two meanings. The first is to recognize the value of something. We do this when we practice gratitude. The second meaning is to increase in value. Simply by recognizing the value of something, it increases in value to us. Together, these two meanings support the practice of valuing what we already have, turning our attention to the good, and funneling our energy into what we want more than what we don’t want.
Where we pour our attention in our lives will grow. When we focus our energy on what we do want rather than what we don’t, we give what we do want more power and more ability to grow. We also begin to train our brains to look for the good and to see it more easily.
There are tons of benefits to a gratitude practice on physical, psychological, and social levels. Increases in happiness levels, optimism, life satisfaction, charitable giving, physical health and health of relationships have all been shown as helpful outcomes of practicing gratitude. A regular practice has also been shown to decrease negative emotions and actions as well as to decrease effects of PTSD.
A “regular” practice doesn’t even have to be daily. Taking the time to pour attention into the details of the practice can be highly affective even only a few days per week. The important piece in the practice is to feel into what you are grateful for. As you are focusing your mental attention on thinking about what you appreciate, also try to feel gratitude in your body. Notice the sensations that you experience on a physical level to add more power to your practice.
Feeling into it can be a way to savor the thing, person, experience, or place that you are focusing on. But, know that while savoring the good helps it to grow, savoring the bad- as many of us are in the habit of doing by focusing on what is wrong- helps the bad to grow as well.
You have several options on what a gratitude practice might look like. You can start to focus on 1-3 things you are grateful for first thing in the morning when you wake up to start your day on a good note. You can begin a gratitude journal and write entries daily or a few times per week. (The fun thing about a journal is that you can go back and look at entries later.) You can discuss what you are grateful for at dinner in the evenings to wind the day down on a positive note.
Here are a few more tips for starting a gratitude practice:
- Be as specific as possible
- More details per ‘entry’ (verbal or written) is more important than more entries
- Focus on people, beauty seen, and experiences as well as things
- Acknowledge negative outcomes that were avoided, escaped, or prevented
- Savor gifts and surprises
- Revise the ‘entry’ if you repeat it on another day to focus on a different aspect
- Commit to a regular practice
I encourage you to give it a try. Run an experiment and find the version of the practice that works for you. Talk with others about what you are grateful for to spur them on to do the same. I appreciate your joining me on this journey and am grateful to have a community to share and learn from.
Chat again soon,