We hear about gratitude every Thanksgiving because that’s what the holiday is all about. But we don’t always deliver on our intentions. With the holiday occurring at a particularly challenging point in the pandemic, it’s a good time to think about gratitude in a new way. Or better yet, we can think of it in three ways! Gratitude is a skill, a strength, and a medicine.
Gratitude is a skill in that you get better at it with practice. In fact, it can become a habit. As we begin to look for reasons to be grateful, they become more apparent. Being appreciative is also a strength. Did you know that people who are grateful are more resilient, sleep better, feel better, and are kinder to other people and themselves?
Finally, gratitude can be thought of as natural medicine in that it has a beneficial, healing effect on the body. When we feel grateful, it’s accompanied by sensations in the body. It might feel like warmth or a pleasant swelling in the heart area. Wherever we feel it, the sensation is caused by the release of serotonin, oxytocin, and dopamine. When we cultivate gratitude (deeply versus as a passing thought) the parts of our brains involved with language and recall are activated and we drop into presence. You can cultivate a grateful mood by listing things you’re grateful for– people, things, places, experiences. Ask your family or friends to join you. As with most things, gratitude is even more effective when you’re doing it while connecting with others.
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