Last week we discussed the WHY of having a self care routine. This week starts the best part – the smorgasbord of practices available in creating a self care routine, and the attitudes that help to establish a supportive and nurturing life. Today’s topic is Gratitude!
Gratitude. It’s an attitude. Another word is appreciation. If you’re an Abraham Hicks fan you’ll hear it phrased as “Deep appreciation”. Gratitude can move us to great acts and summon a well spring of happy tears unexpectedly. But, how does gratitude benefit us, and how do we practice gratitude on a daily basis as part of Self Care?
Since we are not the sum of our thoughts, feelings, and body, but the awareness behind it all, we have the power to move our awareness towards the attitudes and concepts that feed us. Gratitude feeds us spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and physically.
According to studies gratitude helps with insomnia, depression, increases activity in the hypothalamus (a master gland that’s super important), and increases dopamine levels. Try focusing on the last funeral you attended and the happiest day of your life at the same moment. It’s not something we are designed to do. By bringing your awareness to thankfulness you actually begin programing your brain to work more effectively. When your brain works better, your emotional and mental habits change for the better, typically. That’s practical self care.
I’ve noticed that individuals who are spiritual tend to practice gratitude and vice versa. My grandmother was apt to sing a hymn –
Count your Blessings name them One by One. Count your blessings see what God has done.
Throughout the Jewish and Christian scriptures the writers speak about coming into God’s presence with thanksgiving. Buddha taught that we are to practice gratitude regardless of our life’s condition because it is part of our integrity. In other words – finding something to be grateful for even when things are tough helps us to grow. You don’t even need to believe in a higher power for gratitude to increase your neurochemical sense of well-being and love.
How do we cultivate gratitude? Daily. My daily gratitude time is as soon as I get up in the morning. In fact, here is my current focus quote because I’ve been struggling with gratitude lately.
I literally say, “Thank You”. Then I spend a few moments thinking about what I have to be thankful for in my life. Some days it’s simple things like breathing, or my bed, or the sound of the dog snoring by my window. Other days it get esoterical and I’m thankful for being able to feel gratitude and having the option to express it – or not. I also spend a few minutes before bed thinking over the day, feeling grateful for making it to my bed, listing the good things that happened and looking for the lessons in the things that didn’t go well because gratitude is in both.
Some people keep an actual gratitude journal or simply list what they are grateful for in their daily journal. Bullet journaling is great for this practice.
I’ve seen collages and art work dedicated to expressing gratitude. If you’re not a writer, but you can draw or paint – consider bringing your heart to life via your art medium.
One practice I enjoy is to combine my gratitude with my yoga and meditation. I find being physically engaged in a gratitude practice is powerful. While holding a pose or in my meditation place I’ll breath in something I’m thankful for while breathing out something I take for granted, or an attitude that is holding me back.
Here’s an example:
Breathing in: “I breath in gratitude for the written word.”
Breathing out: “I breath out complacency towards suffering.”
As I breath in and out I come up with something different each breath in and each breathe out. It’s a bit of free association, but I always walk away feeling more grateful for my life and having a lighter step.
You can work in a gratitude practice with self care easily. You can set a time and write for ten minutes, you can take a few moments here and there. But here’s the important thing – gratitude is not isolated to just your self care hour. It becomes a new way of life, of expression.
Gratitude. It’s an attitude. It’s part of our integrity. It changes our brains and bodies to function better. It draws us close to the Divine and revives our Inner Light. Who knew?
Until next time,
I am grateful for you and the gift you have to offer the world,