As I sit and reflect on the word Gratitude, I am reminded of the words by Lisa Nichols, ‘what is your gift wrapped in sandpaper?’ For me my sandpaper wrapped gift in this moment is my neck injury that I sustained from a recent motor vehicle accident. It is giving me this wonderful opportunity to rest, recover and heal. You may ask, where is the friction? Friction is an active part of coming to acceptance and gratitude.
It has not been easy to cut back on work and only use the computer for 45 minutes a day. It has thrown a wrench in the works that my mind just didn’t want to accept. Acceptance does not just happen—it is a process. For me friction, the sanding away of what is not needed, has been a vital part to help me rest, recover and heal. When I think about sanding a piece of rough wood, the finished product is smooth, and gentle to my touch. Being in a motor vehicle accident created a rough patch in my body.
Even though it was an accident, I am having to smooth out and heal those rough patches as a result.
As I end the sixth week since I was hit from behind, I can say that I am grateful that I have a wonderful healing team working to help me recover. I am grateful for my husband and girls for picking up the huge slack at home. I am grateful for my clients who have been so supportive in working with my new schedule so that I am able to do my work.
Gratitude has a powerful effect on how we heal. I can attest to that statement. When I focus on how hard it is, the pain is worse. When I focus on what I am grateful for, I am able to handle the pain better and find peace. Let’s find out why.
What is one thing that has a positive impact in our lives and triggers the amygdala (found in the limbic system) in our brain? Gratitude is the answer. Gratitude helps the part of our brain that helps us learn through either fear or arousal.
For example, saying ‘thank you’ when someone does you a kindness takes but a second and yet can have a positive impact, not only for you, but for the person being thanked.
Why is that?
First, you are looking outside yourself and focusing on a positive which, by the way, has a tremendous impact on brain function. When you make a conscious choice to practice gratitude, you literally change or reroute emotion from your limbic brain, the emotion center of brain and the seat of fight, flight or freeze response, to your frontal cortex where you can come from a place of love, peace, executive function, and reason.
I don’t know about you, but I would much rather act from the latter, as it sheds a positive light on everything I encounter. Where does gratitude stem from and can we train the brain for gratitude?
According to Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough’s “Gratitude” research, those who practiced a grateful outlook experienced a heightened well-being. I have included a shortened piece of their abstract:
“The effect of a grateful outlook on psychological and physical well-being was examined. Participants were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 experimental conditions (hassles, gratitude listing, and either neutral life events or social comparison) [they kept diaries in which they noted things in different categories – hassles, gratitude, etc. – according to their experimental group]; they then kept weekly or daily records of their moods, coping behaviors, health behaviors, physical symptoms, and overall life appraisals. […]
The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.”
When you practice gratitude behaviors you can enhance your well-being and so much more. I want you to think of gratitude as an ACTION and not has a person, place or thing. During the month of November, I want to encourage you to practice more Gratitude.
It can be the best medicine and a stepping stone to creating balance in your life. I have listed below three ways that you can practice. Over the years, I have found these work well. As always, notice what works best for you and leave the rest!
Three Ways to Cultivate your Attitude of Gratitude:
~Practice saying “Thank you” in a sincere and meaningful way.
Exercise: Anytime you say thank you, really mean it. This is not as easy as it sounds.
~ Keep a daily ‘Gratitude’ journal ~this is a wonderful practice that helps you pay attention to the good in your life and to focus on counting your blessings in your life.
Exercise: At the end of your day or week, write down 3-5 things in which you were grateful.
~ Use this Gratitude Practice, adapted by Christine Comaford, the latest brain research shows feeling 30 seconds of gratitude six separate times daily (a whopping three minutes a day!) will enable your neurons to fire together and wire together around gratitude within a mere two weeks.
Exercise: Close your eyes.
Focus on a blessing in your life… something for which you are thankful. See an image of this blessing in your mind’s eye. Offer a silent “thank you” to the person or object of your blessing.
Relax into the feeling of gratitude.
Take a deep breath. Feel more gratitude.
I suggest you pick one of these exercises and practice it for the month.
I am hopeful that you’ll access the feeling of gratitude with greater ease and more often as a result.