The Art of Gratitude

The Art of Gratitude
The Art of Gratitude
It is important we take the time to appreciate the bounty we are given every single day. This may be difficult at times, especially if you are in an anxious state. During these periods, it can feel impossible to see beyond what’s occurring outside of ourselves. We are here to help.

When you think of Thanksgiving what do you think of? 

Turkey and pumpkin pie? Family traditions? A well needed day off work? 

Whatever it may be, in this busy day and age it’s easy to get caught up in the moment. We can often forget to take a step back and recall the true, underlying meaning of this holiday: to give thanks. 

It is important we take the time to appreciate the bounty we are given every single day. This may be difficult at times, especially if you are in an anxious state.  During these periods, it can feel impossible to see beyond what’s occurring outside of ourselves. 

“Being thankful is not always experienced as a natural state of existence, we must work at it, akin to a type of strength training for the heart.” – Larissa Gomez

Taking the time to be grateful - no matter how difficult it may be - has a direct correlation on your mental health.  Research has shown that practicing daily gratitude can have a positive influence on your interpersonal feelings ( ie . trust, admiration and respect) and emotional state 1.  Plus, there appears to be a link between those who practice daily gratitude and living a life with greater positive affect and satisfaction 2 .  

When you focus on your heart and allow it to empower your intentions, it can play a commanding role in changing your life.  Afterall, it is the power of the heart that keeps our brain alive.  Only when the two are in unison do we find harmony, hope and balance in our lives.  

When either one is pulling in the opposite direction, this balance is lost. 

Now you may be thinking, “okay so the science is there, but how can I see past my anxious fog and start implementing the art of gratitude today?” It may require a deliberate shift in attention for you to move away from your anxious mind. This may sound easier said than done.  We are here to help. 

One technique to help you learn to calm your mind, and focus on the things you are grateful for, is outlined below.

Read the steps thoroughly and start practicing them today. Maybe print off the steps and put them in a visible place, so they are available whenever you need them. 

Are you ready?


Close your eyes.    Focus on your breath.    Do you hear it?    

Can you feel your stomach moving in and out as you let the air flow through your lungs and out your body? 

Now zone in on your heart.  Feel it pumping?

Imagine your heart getting warmer, beginning from the center of your chest.

Do you feel the warmth?   If you are comfortable doing so, place your hand over your heart.    Picture your heart glowing.

 

Now try and maintain this warmth for the next minute (or two).

Still feeling the warmth?   

 

Now begin thinking of one (or more) things or aspects of your life you greatly care for.  This could be a person, an animal, a characteristic or feature of yourself or your life, your home, your work, the country you live…whatever you like.

This should cause a feeling of warmth and glow.

 

Do you feel yourself smiling?   How’s your posture?    Are your shoulders more relaxed now?

... 

When you are ready, open your eyes.

 


 This exercise may not come easy at first, and that’s ok. Give it some time.  Hopefully you will slowly see the effects. 

If you respond well, be it right away or with time, try implementing it into your daily life. Do it first thing when you wake up, or in the shower, or whenever best suits your lifestyle. When you’re feeling stressed or anxious, try it as soon as you feel the symptoms presenting.

Thanksgiving may be one day to give thanks, but carrying on this gratitude practice to your everyday life may result in a healthier, happier and more fulfilling life.

 


Want to learn more? Check out some of these resources:

  1. Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting Blessing Versus Burdens: An Experimental Investigation of Gratitude and Subjective Well-Being in Daily Life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84(2), 377-389
  2. Allan, B. A., Steger, M. F., Shin, J. Y. (2012). Thanks? Gratitude and well-being over the Thanksgiving holiday among college students. The Journal of Positive Psychology, 8(2), 91-102
  3. McCraty, R (2004). The Grateful Heart: The Psychophysiology of Appreciation. The Psychology of Gratitude. Edited by Emmons, R.A & McCullough, M.E. New York: Oxford University Press, 230-255.
  4. https://www.heartmath.org/
  5. https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/22/how-being-thankful-can-boost-your-well-being-and-success.html
  6. http://www.panic-and-anxiety-attacks.com/articles/gratitude-lifts-the-weight-of-anxiety/

 

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