Finally, science and the Western world is beginning to catch up and has discovered a direct correlation of ancient yogic philosophy and mental and physical wellbeing, specifically, toward the power of positivity and gratitudes. It has been proven that by saving space in your day to jot down gratitudes in a journal will increase your overall happiness by at least 10 percent. Just for reference, doubling your salary also increases your happiness by 10 percent. A single act in the morning has the potential to redirect and make a positive shift in your entire day.
I’m sure you’ve seen this meme lying around the internet on a FB or IG feed lately. In a culture sometimes littered with toxic positivity, this one sticks out to me as a quote to almost live by. “Gratitude changes everything.” It is at its most basic level an honest and true perspective of the ever present now. It’s noticing the places that might seem incomplete or broken about you and the world and loving them anyway. It might simply be remembering all those things you prayed for that you now embody or have. Some days it might seem really damn small—this breath is usually the first and easiest thing to give thanks to in the morning. Because without your breath, everything else is irrelevant. So the breath isn’t small at all. It is the single most effective gratitude in the whole world. It makes us pause, take a deep breath right where we are and say, “thank you.” It also has this amazing almost magnetic pull to jolt us into the present moment on the inhale. On the exhale, simply notice your power. No matter where you are, whatever the weather, you always have the choice to choose gratitude.
As you focus on the ability to breathe, you might even start to feel your diaphragm filling up like a balloon. This is called awareness; it’s a form of meditation. This is also your purpose. For me, these little reminders are like love notes to my mind and body, making me a better mother, a better wife and of course a better friend.
A little science behind gratitude practices
Contentment is not being happy all the time. It is the prayer that “I am right where I need to be.” It is the reminder that there is an abundance of goodness circling me at all times, I only need to look for it. Contentment and gratitude go hand in hand. And it sets in motion the ancient law of truth: The more we are thankful for, the more we are given.
I’ve heard gratitude can make you 10 percent happier. I’ve also heard that a week of gratitude can boost your immunity.
Those who wrote down gratitudes instead of negatives, activation in the medial cortex of the brain (the center responsible for decision making and memory) had increased even 3 months after the gratitude study was over! (https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_gratitude_changes_you_and_your_brain)
Another study that followed a group of 200 college students and another group of 65+ with neuromuscular disease had participants write gratitude journals for an extended period of time. The study found that a gratitude practice overall is beneficial to all. Positive views of life, better moods, and an overall greater satisfaction with life. The caveat was that it didn’t happen overnight. You have to work for it and keep at it for a few months to see and notice the shift.
Using those studies as a guide, I invite you to start a gratitude journal. It can be in the notes section of your device or it could be on post it notes scattered around your room. If you have a journal or a notepad, put it in a safe spot and whenever you pass it during the day, jot down what you’re grateful for. It helps me to start the day with gratitudes but everyone is different and whenever you can carve out the time to journal is perfect. It will only take a moment or two. Write down 2-5 things you are grateful for. It is short and sweet. On days you’re feeling down and nothing seems to be bringing you much joy, start small with “this breath.” On days when you can almost feel the abundance that surrounds you, take your time to jot it all down.
Every now and again, life happens and it makes gratitude for the simpler things much sweeter. I have a friend who just recovered from Covid-19. When she text me yesterday to tell me how whole and full she felt for the simple act of unloading groceries and cooking over a stove for her family, I could literally feel her gratitude. I knew her suffering and I knew her healing.
I hope you take this practice seriously because it truly does have so much power. Send me your gratitudes, post them, tag me in this delicate and beautiful journey.