The New Year is a time for reflection. For me, 2021 was a year of Gratitude.
How often are we grateful for things only after it has been put in jeopardy or taken away?
It's easy to take health for granted until there is a diagnosis or a scare. It's easy to assume everything will continue to be as is. As the world slowly opened up in 2021, I was profoundly grateful each time I traveled to visit family, went to a concert in a park, and sat down in my favorite restaurant with old friends. Heading into 2022 this is something I wish to carry forward. I have a commitment: cultivate and practice gratitude daily. Maybe you'll join me.
Gratitude is the feeling of being thankful. It is the conscious acknowledgement of the good you or others experience. People who are grateful are said to have improved quality of life in many ways: less stress, stronger relationships, and even less pain. Our brains do not naturally tend towards gratitude because of our innate protective negativity bias. The negativity bias has evolved over time to allow our brains to constantly scan and plan for any future pitfalls or problems. This makes sense.
The more we imagine all the bad things that can happen, the more we can protect ourselves and survive. The problem arises when, through this negativity bias, we carve a negative thought pattern to see everything through this negative lens. The benefit of a gratitude practice is that it creates and then strengthens a new thought pattern: a positive one. As the body tunes into the positives in life, we experience less stress and sleep better. This can have a cascading impact on mood, inflammation, and pain.
There are many ways to incorporate a gratitude practice into your daily life. In the most simple way this could be making a mental note here and there throughout the day as things pop up for which you are grateful. Mentally or audibly say, "I am grateful for ----."
For some, having something more concrete can lead to better consistency with the practice. One example of a concrete gratitude practice is keeping a journal. No need to write long prose. It works even if you just write one word! For others, having a partner in gratitude is helpful. Consider sharing daily what you are grateful for with a friend or loved one. As with so many habits, it is helpful to combine your gratitude practice with something you already do every day. Sit and conjure up something you are grateful for. Feel in your body where the emotion of gratitude resides. Doesn't it feel good?
Let's make 2022 another year to be grateful for. Whatever method of pursuing a gratitude practice... and there is no wrong way... just be consistent. Every time you consciously acknowledge and feel gratitude you are changing your brain for the better. So what are you grateful for today? Here. I'll go first:
I am grateful for my CTS community.