I'll be the first to admit it took me some time to buy into this whole gratitude thing. Not that I wasn't grateful for my life, but I didn't understand why I should write down what I'm grateful for every day. It wasn't until a few years ago when I started dabbling with a gratitude practice that I began to understand why it is important.
Over the past few months I've started carrying a small journal with me so I remember to physically write down what I'm grateful for. I never take my journal out of my bag because it's the first thing I see when I'm getting ready in the morning, which reminds me to write down what I'm grateful for. I sit on a train for 45 minutes each way to and from work, so there is plenty of time for me to pull out my journal and write.
I notice that when I sit down with my journal and reflect on the past day or few hours, and begin to write down what I'm grateful for, my whole day changes. The day before could have had some crap moments, but instead of focusing on that, I'm thinking about the things and people in my life that I'm thankful for. Like, that great conversation I had with my mom and how thankful I am for our relationship. Or, even though my Dad is dealing with cancer, I think about how grateful I am that he feels good and can still enjoy working in his garage, hanging out with his friends, and enjoying time with my Step Mom.
3 Reasons to Start a Gratitude Practice
1. You'll be happier
As humans, we have a predisposition to be cautious. A sense of harm or a negative experience triggers an adrenaline rush that embeds that bad memory into our brain so we don't get in that situation again. This served us well for thousands of years, but given we're no longer likely to be attacked by large land mammals, it causes a lot of stress in the modern world we live in.
Our brains natural have a negativity bias, but that can change through a regular gratitude practice. We can rewire our brains to think and focus on the happier moments, but we have to create the habit. Research shows that gratitude makes us more resilient and better able to cope with stressful times.
2. You'll be healthier...really
Ever feel relieved and lighter after thinking about what you're grateful for? These physical benefits are real!
“The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” said Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide,” he said.
Having a regular gratitude practice has shown to reduce cortisol levels (stress hormones) by 23 percent!
3. You'll have better relationships
Most of the time things we're grateful for are associated with people, whether it be a family member, friend, or random person on your commute. If you have a significant other, this can be extremely beneficial to keeping your bond strong and getting you through those petty arguments.
Looking back at my own journal, over half of the things I'm grateful for are people and every day I've written something about my husband. We have our moments but even then, thinking about why I'm grateful to have him in my life takes down the walls and allows me to focus on what's important.
How you can start your gratitude practice
Dig out an old notebook or buy one that fits in your bag
Write a reminder on a sticky note or put a note in your phone at a time you'll be able to stop and spend 5-minutes writing down what you're grateful for
Turn off all background noise and write down three things you're grateful for
Re-read your list and focus on the words
I'm doing a 30-day gratitude practice this month, which happens to be perfect timing for Thanksgiving! You can find me sharing my daily check-ins on my Instagram (@krista.blanco). Come over to my social or share below what you're grateful for!
Are you in for a gratitude challenge?