Hello dear friends!
I’m a big believer in the little things. Over the years of healing from Lyme and ME/CFS, I’ve tried a lot of different therapies and I always tended to gravitate towards the big, shiny, sexy ones. I think we all feel that pull, right? We want the one big thing that will transform us, will set things right, or will make us well again. Well, I hate to be the one to say it, but the magic pill doesn’t exist. Sorry to burst your bubble! But hey, you know what does work? A dedicated routine that includes lots of healing practices. I know…it doesn’t sound like as much fun. But hear me out anyway.
It’s all those small steps you take, the little decisions that you make, that can help you finally heal. And for those of you who have been following me for some time, you know that I’m a huge fan of nutrition, yoga, meditation, aromatherapy, herbal medicine, and lots more…but I realized that there’s one practice that I haven’t really talked about much, and that’s my gratitude practice. I touched on it briefly in my recent podcast episode over at the Wellness Crossing (go check it out!), but I haven't written about it much! Before we dive in, let me just say that this isn’t anything fancy. It doesn’t require special journals or long time commitments.
It’s just a few minutes out of each day, to tune into the vibration of abundance, joy, and contentment. And it can seriously change your life. I can say that, because it has changed mine. I feel less anxious, more accepting of myself and others, and more connected to the world around me. I’ve noticed that I pay more attention to the little things, like a stranger’s smile or the soft feeling of nestling in bed each night. My practice has tuned me into the good stuff that’s all around me, and made my life richer, even though literally nothing about my life has changed!
Honestly, just a year or so ago, if someone had told me that gratitude could be so important, I probably would have shrugged them off. It doesn’t really seem like something that powerful, right? Something so simple and intangible surely couldn’t alter the path of your life. Needless to say, I’m glad I’ve come around!
My personal gratitude practice is pretty low-key. At the end of each day, I simply make a list of all the things that made me smile that day, or the things that really stood out, reminding me of the good in life. My lists always include at least 3-4 things, but sometimes it feels like I write an entire paragraph! There are a few things that routinely make the list, like my dog or my partner, but it’s usually quite different each day. And one of my favorite things to do, when I really need a boost, is to look back and read a whole bunch of entries at once. It’s a powerful reminder of how good I have it, even when it doesn’t feel like it sometimes.
It can be hard to even think about a gratitude practice when life seems to be crumbling around you. When you’re struggling to even get out of bed, wracked with pain and fatigue. When your partner suddenly leaves you and you’re forced to move out of your home, with $8 to your name. When you’re facing bankruptcy, or you’re losing your job, or you feel so alone and broken that you don’t know how you’ll put the pieces back together again. But trust me, I’ve lived through it, and I can honestly say, that even on the worst days, there was always always something to be grateful for.
There are so many different benefits to tuning into gratitude each and every day, but I’ll just list a few here that have been particularly apparent for me. If you’re on the fence on whether or not to start a gratitude practice, or you need some renewed motivation to get back into it, here are five ways that gratitude can change your life:
1. It can make you kinder
Focusing on the good things in life can actually shift the way we perceive the world and other people, increasing our natural amount of “pro-social behaviors.” These actions are based upon compassion, cooperation, and community building, and can go a long way to improve your relationships. Some researchers even reported that those with a more grateful mindset were less likely to engage in retaliation or grudge-holding after a negative personal interaction. And thanks to the mirror effect, when you’re kinder, others are kinder, and the ripple effect goes outward!
2. It can make you more resilient
One of the best benefits, in my opinion, of gratitude is the mental fortitude that it gives. When you get in the habit of focusing on the good things, you’re better able to handle the inevitable bad days in life. By recognizing the little things that are going well, you can weather the storms of upset, disappointment, and criticism. This kind of mental resilience has been shown to improve our reactions to negative events, whether it’s something huge like a natural disaster, or something smaller, like a symptom flare-up.
3. It can make you invest in your self-care
People that have established gratitude practices also tend to take good care of their health, and I’ve found that it’s a beautiful, continuous cycle, with each aspect feeding into the other. When you take time to “stop and smell the roses,” you’re more likely to also take time to drink water, eat healthy food, meditate, get more sleep, and other health-focused behaviors. And that’s a win-win for anyone, but especially those with chronic illness!
4. It can make you more attractive
While it’s never a good idea to approach a gratitude practice with the hopes of being more charismatic to others, it can be a pleasant side effect. We’re social creatures after all (yes, even we introverts), and the desire for belonging is wired into our very DNA. People tend to have higher opinions of those who are in a grateful mindset, and are more likely to develop lasting, trusting bonds with those who see the good side of life. We’re naturally drawn towards those who are positive, and exude happy energy, rather than those whose negativity drags us down.
5. It can make you more accepting
I admit, acceptance is a continual practice for me, especially when it comes to accepting myself and my (perceived) flaws. However, gratitude helps me to focus on the things that are going well in my own life, which in turn reduces my anxiety. This also leaks out into my perceptions of others, softening my judgments and expectations. A regular gratitude practice has been shown to improve self-image, confidence, and our understanding of other people, and I’ve definitely seen those effects personally!
Gratitude doesn’t need to be complicated, or woo-woo for that matter. It’s a simple matter of turning your attention to the things that bring you joy, light you up inside, and make you want to whisper “thank you.”
The feel of the morning sun on your face. A kind compliment from a stranger. The way your dog looks at you when you scratch behind her ears. The relief that washes over you when you have a full bladder, and finally spot a gas station. Seeing that you have leftovers in the fridge, and you don’t have to cook dinner tonight. There are so many of these kinds of little moments in each day. And when we can bring our full presence and attention to them over and over again, we really can change our life.
So friends, do you have a gratitude practice? What kinds of things have made you smile lately? Tell me in the comments below!
And as always…
~ Hoping you feel as well as possible ~