Most of us have learned that it’s good to be grateful, and intuitively, we understand this to be true. When we are grateful for the blessings in our lives, we tend to feel happy and content with the world as it is. Aligned with the present moment in these glimpses of true appreciation, our mental health, our relationships, and our experience of life are heightened.
While all of this we sense to be true, we don’t always experience alignment with this understanding. Sometimes, the power of gratitude is hidden beneath the veil of a mind that is caught up in thoughts and beliefs that run contrary to gratitude.
As we deepen our understanding of why gratitude is so powerful and gain insights into how we can harness gratitude (by listening to a meditation on gratitude, for instance), we enhance our ability to go to that place of appreciation more frequently. As we do this, we enrich, restore, and revitalize our lives in infinite ways.
Gratitude holds powerful transformative and healing potential – but how? On a spiritual and energetic level, gratitude is a shift in mindset and perception that tunes us into the abundance, beauty, and love that is at the core of everything. As we begin to challenge conditioned belief systems that have us viewing and interacting with the world from a place of fear or lack, we welcome a new perspective that is rooted in love and acceptance. Making this shift helps us to rise to a new level of witnessing the events in our lives, even challenging ones, creating space for understanding, growth, and healthy evolution.
Scientifically, much research is being done to support the benefits of gratitude that have been expressed throughout ancient traditions for centuries. According to reports referring to work done by UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, it has been found that making a habit out of expressing gratitude impacts the brain’s molecular structure. Gray matter functioning is supported through gratitude, which keeps us happy and healthy on multiple levels. Another study found that through modulating neural activity, gratitude meditation improves emotional regulation and self-motivation Science aside. We might find ourselves underestimating the power of this simple practice – or, we might find that others are skeptical of our faith and trust in these practices. While the shift is subtle at first, the ripple effect that this shift has is profound. Individually, socially, and culturally, we are moved by appreciation in more ways than we can predict from the start of our exploration of gratitude. Let’s explore some of the benefits of gratitude in the layers of change this virtue is capable of reaching.
1. Individual level
Gratitude practices enhance our personal lives in a variety of ways. As we shift our perception of the world around us, our chemical and energetic frameworks shift, which causes a rise in well-being. More specifically, gratitude can:
Increase happiness and contentment
Improve self-esteem and self-compassion
Improve mental and emotional resilience
Decrease stress and anxiety
Increase present-moment awareness
Enhance our spirituality
Enhance physical wellbeing
2. Social level
The benefits of practicing and expressing gratitude extend far beyond ourselves. On a social level, this work can:
Heighten our appreciation for those around us
Improve our relationships
Increases pro-social behavior
Enhance balance and communication among individuals
3. Cultural level
Social impacts eventually transform into more widespread cultural reflections. As we practice gratitude within ourselves and in smaller social groups, we shift the way we communicate and soon, the way we function as a collective. Culturally, gratitude practice can:
Enhance understanding among various groups
Increase compassion and connection
There is no telling exactly how gratitude will shift our human collective over time, but as more of us begin to delve into this work, the impacts that result will be ones based on love, compassion, and appreciation. By beginning within, we quickly see that gratitude practice extends outwards and influences everyone we come into contact with – and each person those individuals go on to engage with as well.
On one hand, cultivating gratitude authentically can take time. We do not shift our perceptions overnight. On the other hand, gratitude practice is something we can only ever explore in the present moment. Each instant is an opportunity to see where we can become more appreciative of what we have around us. We can cultivate gratitude through a variety of practices, including the following:
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal can help you to shift your perception of the world around you by encouraging you to open your heart and mind to the abundance that already exists. In your journal, start by listing ten things you have to be grateful for in the present moment – big or small. Then, see if you can add another ten – and another ten. As you dive deeper into the abundance and blessings that exist on multiple levels in your reality, you will start to gain a heightened appreciation for life and for all that you are blessed with. Consider this a written meditation for gratitude and abundance.
2. Take a walk in nature.
The natural world is an effortless place to reconnect with the beauty and grace of the world as it is. Take a walk in nature and tune into all five senses, seeing if you can move into deeper alignment with the elements that surround you. Tune into the blessings of the air that fills you, the earth beneath your feet, and the vibrancy and vitality that are reflected in you.
3. Write a letter of appreciation to a loved one.
Expressing gratitude is a powerful practice that can strengthen our understanding of just how powerful gratitude is. Write a letter to someone you love, letting them know all the reasons you are appreciative of their being. Deliver this to them in whichever way makes the most sense and then tune in to the energy of love that rises within yourself and the receiver. Gratitude is a gift that gives in boundless direction.