With Thanksgiving right around corner, this is a time of year that ignites feelings of nostalgia for many. It can also be a time of traveling, indulging, family tension, loneliness and other common holiday stressors. Staying in a state of deliberate gratitude can be a mental safe haven that anyone can practice, at any time and for any situation.
In this special edition article, we will discuss the various tried and true methods in celebration of giving thanks. The Art of Giving Thanks, as one might call it, can be a skill, a learned and deliberate form that we can cultivate to live a more enriching life.
First, let’s talk about why the Art of Thanks, or Gratitude is something we need to do consciously. For starters, practicing gratitude is more than just a “nice notion”. The attitude of gratitude affects your happiness and quality in the following areas of your life: emotional health, physical health, social life, persona/personality, and professional life. How you ask?
Gratitude: the Panacea for Stress
Well, let’s a take a closer look. Having an attitude of gratitude in reference to our emotional states is important in the overall quality of life. Let’s say for instance, you are stuck in traffic and about to be late to your in-laws house for Thanksgiving Dinner. You begin to feel stressed when you notice that as soon as you enter the ramp on I-95, pretty much the rest of the world was also thinking the same thing. Going into a state of panic, road rage, swearing and thinking thoughts that beat us up inside like, “Why didn’t I leave sooner?” or “$^%. I always do this.” or “Great. Now his mother is going to think that I don’t care about her dinner”. These are all thoughts we think from time to time that can take a particular situation and make it ten times worse with added negative thoughts. Daily events, such as being stuck in traffic, can become an internal battle when we listen to the inner conversation that goes on in our heads. But it doesn’t have to be like that. With intention and practice, we can learn to be kinder to ourselves through gratitude.
Intentionally practicing the Art of Giving Thanks in this situation by noticing things that are going right can immediately shift our emotional “ungrateful” brain from angry to disappointed, to indifferent to quiet, then finally to calm, in closing the gap from anger to gratitude. Noticing that the traffic is beginning to move and that having a minute to yourself in the car is actually a blessing, thanking your car for the heat, radio and ease of travel it provides, amongst other “what is going right” facts can help you tame the dragon and get back into a state that feels good to feel, such as gratitude.
Glass Half Full? Reap the Benefits.
This type of deliberate thinking allows our emotional health to thrive by developing self-coping skills, optimism and inner calm. It also helps us to relax in the moment, decrease negative memory of the event as well as increase your self-esteem in knowing that you can handle all obstacles.
Practicing gratitude at moments of stress has lasting physical effects. It reduces blood pressure and with repeated practice, it allows us to remain calmer, longer. The benefits of internal alignment can improve the quality of your immune system, sleep and even memory.
This increased calm that is cultivated by finding the “thanks” in any situation also makes for a better personality. Would you rather be around someone that blows up and complains about every little thing or someone who can cultivate calm and see that silver lining in any situation? This ability to practice gratitude makes us more likeable- that is a bonus benefit for your workplace, social settings and with your family life. Giving thanks also has the benefit of noticing what we are thankful for right now, which keeps us living in the present and reduces envy or future living.
Making a point to share your gratitude- also known as compliments, is another reason why gratitude make us more likeable. Sharing your ideas of deliberate thanks improves the relationships and the quality of life for those around you, as the benefits of gratitude has a ripple effect.
To learn more about the science behind gratitude, visit our friends at Happier Human for the hard facts on how gratitude really does make you happier.
7 Ways: Do it Daily, Do it Often
So, you see, the benefits are too great not to practice the Art of Giving Thanks. Giving thanks daily is a great way to strengthen our “give thanks” muscles. As with any activity or idea, when practiced repeatedly, it becomes a habit and in the long run becomes a part of your hard wiring, or your personality.
The Art of Giving Thanks can easily be incorporated into our lives. We wrangled up some easy ways to help you stay in the moment of gratitude.
- Keep a “Thank You” log or journal. This can be done on your phone’s memo app or done on paper; whatever is most natural to you. I use Evernote to log my daily thanks. For example, every morning I start my day with a note that has the date and I make a list of things that I am thankful for. This always starts my mornings in a centered, grounded place that make an excellent base to start the day in appreciation for all that I have been blessed with.
- Share your gratitude. That’s right. Don’t be stingy with these. Make it a point to share a good feeling thought every day, to anyone. The beautiful thing about compliments is that it has no pre-requisites of an existing relationship. In fact, sharing compliments can improve your relationships or create new ones. At the very least, it can brighten up that individual’s day and jump start your feel good efforts. “That hat looks great on you” or “You did a fantastic job!” is all it takes.
- Compliment yourself. Instead of battling the mirror while you are getting dressed for work by pointing out your flaws, why not compliment yourself instead? How about “You look fabulous!”. How about, “I know I haven’t reached my target weight yet, but I’m really starting to see changes I want. Go me!”. Say “yes” to self esteem. Since this conversation is with yourself, there is nothing to feel conceited about. Go ahead, lavish yourself in self love.
- Just give. Whether it is canned goods to your local food drive or volunteering your time with your local animal shelter, what you give doesn’t matter to your brain- it feels the good feelings of helping another human or furry friend, no matter how little. Find your local food drive or animal shelter, just about every organization in every state is looking for volunteers.
- Turn that frown, upside down. Sometimes, unpleasant things happen and there isn’t a whole lot we can do about it in that current moment. Changing the physical reality of the situation is not likely, but you can change your reality or perception. That is, turning that frown upside down by accepting what happened and choosing to look for the “lesson” in that experience. After all, if you learned something valuable from the experience, it can’t possibly be an all time loss AND it will prevent you from finding yourself in this same situation again.
- Be lucky…on purpose. When you find yourself in a stressful situation, deliberately find yourself to be a lucky star instead of the victim. For instance, if you suddenly find yourself among a bunch of slow drivers, instead of getting mad, thank the universe that this slowing of traffic is saving you from a hidden speed trap ahead.
- Make it a firm decision. Make the decision today that you understand that gratitude thinking is a benefit for yourself and those around you. Declare your wishes to make it a natural way of thinking. Once you make the decision, allow yourself to gently sift and sort through your thoughts and choose which thoughts support your new choice. Don’t worry, in the beginning, it will feel a bit like you are being the “mind police”, but over time, you’ll be able to recognize just how much time and energy is spent being pessimistic and criticizing yourself and others. Be kind to yourself and others, even in thought form. Making the decision to yourself is what opens the subconscious mind to help you make it a habit.
So, what are you thankful for this holiday season? Let Thanksgiving be a reminder not just for turkeys and ham but a meaningful moment of giving thanks for your family, your work, your health and anything else that may be taken for granted in the busy hustle of life.
Leave us a comment on what makes you appreciate your life. What brings you that million dollar smile? Share a page from your gratitude journal with us below. We’d love to hear about your gratitude journey.
Here at Bagua Center, we are so thankful for you. Bagua Family members like you have molded our center into what it is today and we continue to grow and expand. We feel your love and support. We thank you for joining us on our journey for expansion in the universe. We love the connections we make, the ideas that are shared and the things we learn from you. We love you and we reflect during this time just how much love there is ~ we thank you for giving us the opportunity to brighten your lives.