Dr Jess says: One of my favourite ever quotes by Oprah Winfrey “Be thankful for what you have and you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough…” explains the practice of gratitude in a nutshell.
This is the Law of Attraction in action, by focusing on what we love and enjoy we get more. I have felt this in my life many times. Whenever at my lowest, I look at the amazing and wonderful things in my life and the gifts I was given. Even when you can’t find anything, starting with a warm, safe bed and food to eat is enough.
Gratitude journals are an incredibly positive tool to help you do this and the process of writing it down seems to make it more powerful.
A study of pregnant women found practising gratitude 4 times a week had a significant impact on stress reducing cortisol (stress hormone) levels by nearly 25% (1). Several studies show the huge benefits of gratitude on stress (2) and even PTSD (3).
Practising gratitude can actually reduce physical pain
Studies have shown practising gratitude regularly can actually reduce symptoms of disease and physical pain in conditions like osteoarthritis (4).
And emotional pain like aggression, anger, jealousy and blame
Emotional pain is often more complex and harder to deal with for many people than physical pain. Studies show there is a direct link between how grateful we feel and emotions like anger (5), jealousy and blame (6). Ho’oponopono and mindfulness may be other techniques that you may find useful if struggling.
Improve self-esteem and enhance empathy
A relatively large study showed the huge benefit of gratitude on self-esteem in college students and this indirectly lowered the risk of depression and suicide (7).
Improve sleep and energy
A study of gratitude practiced for only 2 weeks showed it improved feelings of well-being, sleep quality and energy (8). There are several studies showing this is one of the best psychological practices to do to improve sleep quality and duration (9).
Remember to say a genuine ‘thank you’ to those you appreciate
When you have spent time working in Emergency Medicine you are regularly reminded that we often wait until disaster strikes to express our appreciation and love for those most important to us. Why not change that habit? Every time you feel that bond and love for someone around you, tell them! Even if the relationship isn’t perfect, we are always lucky to have people we care about and care about us in our lives.
List 5 things you are grateful for every day
This is called a gratitude journal and is an amazing, simple tool. It can literally change your life and lighten even the darkest hour. I have even seen parents who have lost a child – the worst nightmare of many people – use this to help them get through periods of despair, and people stuck in depression and negativity, turn their life around. Combine this with ancient practices like Shinrin-yoku and Ho’oponopono and you have a winning combination for a better quality of life.
Take time away from technology – ‘Unplug’ from phones / computers / iPads regularly and focus on appreciating the richness of the world around you for a few hours. We forget the simplicity of life when it is so distracting, but this is a great habit to get into to find gratitude.
Pay it forward – When you have extra time, money or resources, give some to others in need. Just because you can, because it feels good and without expecting anything in return. Because life has provided for you and abundance is drawn to generosity of spirit.
Teach thankfulness to your kids – In a world in which many kids have too much, it is so important to teach them value. Play a gratitude game before bed with each of you naming things and people you are grateful for (praise them for whatever they come up with!) Give them a small amount of money and get them to pick a charity that feels important to them. Make thank you cards for the people they value most.
Connect with strangers – Take time to notice small acts of kindness (like opening a door) and smile and say thank you properly to strangers. In the modern world many people feel lonely and isolated, a smile from a stranger can brighten their day.
Meditate on everything you are thankful for – Focus on everything that makes you lucky – food, shelter, warmth, friends, family, the beauty of nature. Even on the worst days I remember I am the luckiest mummy in the world!