“I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness—it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practising gratitude.” ~ Brené Brown
Gratitude is defined as the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. When we show appreciation for someone or something, we invite happiness into our life and the lives of those around us. Gratitude is an emotion that cannot be forced, nor can it be demanded. That being said, it can be cultivated.
When we practise gratitude, we learn to appreciate all things big and small. When practised daily, we start to notice that the small things are actually not small at all. We soon learn that the simple things in life can, and do, bring us happiness when we stop, take notice, and show appreciation.
Gratitude researcher Robert A. Emmons studied more than 1000 people who were asked to keep a daily gratitude journal. After just three weeks of consistently recording journal entries, the participants experienced improvements in their physical, social, and emotional well-being. They exhibited improved levels of function in their immune system, experienced more positive than negative emotions, had better sleep, and felt less alone.
If you are new to practising gratitude, or haven’t done so in a while, here are a few simple steps to help you on your way:
- Find a quiet spot, close your eyes and clear your mind of all thoughts.
- Take a deep, slow breath in through your nose.
- Feel your belly expand as it fills with the inhale of air. Hold for three seconds.
- Then, slowly exhale, releasing the air through your mouth. Feel your belly flatten and your body relax.
- Repeat as necessary.
- As you do so, feel you heart and mind begin to open. Focus on where your mind takes you as you think about what you are grateful for.
- Be mindful of the warmth you feel in your heart as it begins to radiate happiness each time you show appreciation for something that has touched your life.
- Keep a journal handy to jot down your thoughts and feelings once you have completed the practice.
The feeling of genuine gratitude allows us to develop a relationship with all living things. Should you choose to start practising gratitude daily, you may notice that you find yourself being grateful for the love you share with family, or the laughter you share with friends. As you continue your daily practice, you will naturally find yourself being grateful for the subtleties in life.
Perhaps you heard the welcoming sound of a robin chirping, or your eye caught the first blossom that burst into bloom, or you felt the familiar warmth of the sun on your face. All sure signs that spring is almost upon us. You will start to recognize that, although subtle, these small occurrences in everyday life bring you happiness.
March 8 is International Women’s Day—the global celebration of the social, economic, cultural, and political achievements of women. This special day has been celebrated annually all over the world for more than a century. Be sure to steal a moment for yourself to practise gratitude. What better way to mark this important day, than by adding a simple dose of happiness to your life as you bring gratitude to the forefront of your day.