Updated: Oct 9, 2018
Gratitude practice is one of those life tips that you really need to consider if you wish to enhance your health, and happiness. I had been hearing about gratitude journaling for the last 5 years, but had dismissed it’s importance until recently. Surprisingly one of the first people I heard about Gratitude practice from, was hardcore strength and conditioning coach Charles Poliquin.
Gratitude practice was something I used to perform mentally before bed in my 20’s. I can honestly say it made a huge difference to my mental and emotional state, and often helped send me to sleep with a positive finish to my day. I always meant to get around to doing it properly on paper, and I'm so grateful (get it?) I finally have!
After hearing the topic mentioned several times lately in podcasts, lectures and in books, I knew it was time to latch onto the gratitude bandwagon more formally. The results so far have been a noticeable improvement in the ability to get to sleep, and a substantial shift in my mental emotional state, a huge plus given the incredibly challenging year that was 2016.
What is Gratitude Practice
Gratitude practice is a positive psychology technique that pushes you to be mindful of the things in your life that you are grateful for. Intentionally being grateful helps to dramatically change your mental and emotional state, which has a key impact on your physiology.
The endless stream of negative news, stress, work, and problems we are typically surrounded by can have a negative toll on our health. Being surrounded by negative stress, or constantly experiencing negative emotions can launch our brain towards a cascade of fear, which can increase our likelihood of depression, anxiety, or stress. Unfortunately our brains default mode tends to focus on the negatives, rather than the positives, which is why a gratitude practice can initiate such profound changes.
"Our brains are like Velcro for bad experiences, Teflon for good experiences.”- Rick Hanson
The more we practice gratitude, the more we can rewire our brains to be grateful, happy and present by focusing on the good things in our lives. Gratitude helps us move away from negative thought loops by pointing out the blessings from each day, which ultimately calms us and helps us positively change our mental state.
Why it’s so good for you
Writing a gratitude diary is easy to do in 5-10 minutes a day, it's relaxing and instantly changes your mental state to be more optimistic. Purposefully nourishing your mind by recognising the things that are good in your life will help you to be more healthy and happy. It simply feels good, and is ridiculously easy to do.
By changing your thoughts, you change your physiology. Negative emotions shift us towards the fight / flight response and stress, which will elevate heart rate, increase blood sugar, decrease digestion, etc. Positive emotions help calm and tell our brain there is no threat, and that we are content and calm, therefore helping improve our heart rate variability, which has systemic beneficial effects.
‘Positive emotions are the building blocks of resilience, physical health, everyday effectiveness, and fulfilling relationships. We need moments of positivity.’
- Barbara Fredrickson
How to do it
Writing a gratitude journal can be done any time of day, anywhere. Many people use it at the end of the day, as a means to calm before bed, and prime your mind for a positive sleep and day ahead. Practicing gratitude before bed helps flood positive emotions through your unconscious as you sleep.
Best practice is to spend 20-30 seconds pondering or exploring each thing you are grateful for to help it ‘stick’. Research shows we need linger on the memory to gather the benefits from it. Basically you need to imagine the situation and remember the feelings associated with it to get the benefits.
What you choose to be grateful for may be a challenge at first, until you start to realise it's easy to fill a whole page of things you are grateful for! You can chose to be grateful for the shirt on your back, the cool change after the heat, or the wonderful hug you received from your partner. It doesn’t matter, as long as it’s genuine to you.
You can write it (see below) or type it onto your phone or computer, you can buy a journal, or download an app. Again it doesn’t matter how you do it, so long as you do it in a way that feels right for you, consistently.
This is a game changing habit to make you happier every day. There isn’t much else you can do in 5 minutes, that will have such a dramatic effect on your well being. We encourage you to try it by using this basic structured template we created (click here to download.)