By Dr. Virgina Gill, DVM, DACVIM (Oncology) & Rarebreed Director of Wellness & Sustainability
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ― Melody Beattie
Gratitude is a simple yet profound feeling or emotion that can impact our lives in remarkable ways. The practice of gratitude can make us happier, more resilient, and more content with our lives. In times of struggle, it can be difficult to connect with gratitude. If you can find ways to notice the remarkable qualities of your life, the people in it, and the world around you, chances are you will find more contentment, more ease, and more joy in life. Some of the benefits of gratitude are:
- Shift in Perspective: Gratitude prompts us to look beyond our struggles and recognize the good in our lives. When we acknowledge what’s going right or what we are grateful for, it can shift our perspective from a victim mindset to one of empowerment.
- Emotional Resilience: Gratitude does not eliminate adversity, but it can help you cope better. By leaning into what you’re thankful for, you build emotional resilience, making it easier to navigate difficult circumstances.
- Positive Emotional States: Gratitude triggers the release of “feel good” neurotransmitters in the brain, such as dopamine and serotonin. These can counteract stress hormones, helping you stay emotionally balanced.
- Improved Relationships: Expressing gratitude for the support of loved ones can strengthen those bonds, creating a network of emotional support.
There are a few practices I use to cultivate a practice of gratitude. Both are simple offerings that allow you to express gratitude more regularly, making it easier to be aware of the gifts in your life.
A gratitude journal is a straightforward practice. Each day, you take a few minutes to write down a few things you are grateful for. These can be big or small, from a beautiful sunset to a loving friend, or even the warmth of a cozy blanket on a chilly day. You can use the format of the Five-Minute Journal, which includes prompts of “I am grateful for, what would make today great, and three amazing things that happened today,” depending on if you are doing the practice in the morning, evening, or both. Some tips for gratitude journaling:
- Start Small: Begin by writing two to three things you are thankful for each day.
- Be Specific: Instead of generic statements like “I am grateful for my family,” delve deeper. Write about specific moments or qualities that you appreciate, such as “I am grateful for the laughter we shared at dinner last night.” This might be the MOST important tip. It really helps illuminate all the good in your life.
- Consistency is Key: Make it a daily ritual. Try to write in your gratitude journal at the same time each day, whether it’s in the morning, before bed, or during a break at work. Consistency helps form habits.
- Reflect and Revisit: From time to time, revisit your entries to reflect on how your attitude towards life has evolved. You’ll likely notice a shift towards a more positive and appreciative outlook.
Sharing Gratitude at Mealtime
Sharing gratitude can strengthen our connections with others. One beautiful way to do this is by incorporating the practice of sharing gratitude during mealtime.
- Set the Stage: Create a warm and welcoming atmosphere at the dining table. Light a candle, put away distractions like smartphones or TV, and encourage everyone to be present in the moment.
- Rotate Sharing: Choose a family member or friend to start the gratitude circle. Each person shares one or more things they are thankful for. It could be related to the day’s events, something they appreciate about another person at the table, or even a broader life reflection.
- Listen Actively: As each person speaks, listen with an open heart. Make eye contact, nod, or offer a supportive word or gesture. This not only helps the person sharing feel heard but also enhances the sense of connection.
- Expand the Tradition: Over time, this practice can extend to other gatherings, like celebrations or get-togethers with friends. If done regularly, it can start to feel very normal to begin meals and gatherings, big or small, with an acknowledgment of what you are grateful for. This is contagious when done in groups.
Lastly, spend time in nature. Step outside and behold the natural world around you. I like to put my bare feet on the earth to really ground and anchor my appreciation in the simplicity of the world around us. In times of overwhelm, sadness, and uneasiness, slow time in nature is almost always my antidote. I find it hard not to feel the seeds of gratitude if I can find stillness and quiet in the outdoors. Whatever your practice may be, find your gratitude medicine, notice it, and go back to it regularly. If possible, begin as we step into the month of November and see if you can make one of these things or a practice that rings true to you a gratitude habit.
Thanks for reading! I am grateful for each of you.