How Gratitude Changes Your Life - A Month of Thanks
by Jamie Spannhake
October 31, 2021
What gratitude means.
Gratitude is an attitude. According to Harvard Medical School, "gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible." For me, that includes being mindful, in other words, paying attention to the goodness in our lives, and intentionally recognizing it so that we can be grateful for it.
Why gratitude matters.
Often the things for which we are grateful originate outside ourselves. Recognizing this can connect us to those outside sources, whether they are other people, nature, or a higher power. This sense of connection benefits us in several ways:
- -It puts the world in perspective so that we can see our problems as part of a larger world, which can make them seem less overwhelming.
- -It helps us not feel alone in the world as we realize we are connected to others.
How gratitude changes your brain.
According to The Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, gratitude heightens the use of the medial prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is the area of the brain associated with learning and decision making. This means "practicing gratitude may help train the brain to be more sensitive to the experience of gratitude down the line, and this could contribute to improved mental health over time."
How gratitude changes your life.
When we are consistently grateful, we are able to change our perspective in life to a more positive one. This means that gratitude increases happiness. This happiness creates positive energy in our lives, causing us to be more motivated to make positive changes in our lives, like eating well, exercising regularly, and connecting with others. Most importantly, gratitude is the basis for joy.
According to Brene Brown (love her!), "practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives." Why? In part, because gratitude feeds optimism. As Brene Brown points out: "There is a great quote by a Jesuit priest that says, 'It’s not joy that makes us grateful, it’s gratitude that makes us joyful.'"
Are gratitude journals helpful?
Yes. According to several research studies reported in Psychology Today, "Just two or three weeks of filling out gratitude diaries each evening seems to improve mood, optimistic outlook, and life satisfaction, as well as making you more likely to help others."
Which leads me to...
A Month of Thanks
For the entire month of November, I plan to post on Facebook and Instagram either a photo or a statement about what I am grateful for that day. Just one thing each day. Maybe more if I have the opportunity to post that often.
If you haven't joined my private Facebook group: The Calm in the Chaos Community, join so you can share your daily gratitude with everyone in the group. I want to see what you are grateful for.
If you need ideas for how to be grateful, try these...
Five Ways to be Grateful
- 1. Consider something unexpectedly good that happened today.
- 2. Spend time outside in nature.
- 3. Think about the people you love.
- 4. Look around your house or apartment.
- 5. Contemplate the food you are about to eat before you take your first bite.