The Power of Gratitude & 7 Ways To Cultivate It
Most of us have learned that it’s good to be grateful, and intuitively, we understand this to be true. When we are grateful for the blessings in our lives, we tend to feel happy and content with the world as it is. Aligned with the present moment in these glimpses of true appreciation, our mental health, our relationships, and our experience of life are heightened.
While all of this we sense to be true, we don’t always experience alignment with this understanding. Sometimes, the power of gratitude is hidden beneath the veil of a mind that is caught up in thoughts and beliefs that run contrary to gratitude.
As we deepen our understanding of why gratitude is so powerful, and gain insights into how we can harness gratitude (by listening to a meditation on gratitude, for instance), we enhance our ability to go to that place of appreciation more frequently. As we do this, we enrich, restore, and revitalize our lives in infinite ways.
Gratitude holds powerful transformative and healing potential – but how? On a spiritual and energetic level, gratitude is a shift in mindset and perception that tunes us in to the abundance, beauty, and love that is at the core of everything. As we begin to challenge conditioned belief systems that have us viewing and interacting with the world from a place of fear or lack, we welcome a new perspective that is rooted in love and acceptance. Making this shift helps us to rise to a new level of witnessing the events in our lives, even challenging ones, creating space for understanding, growth, and healthy evolution.
Scientifically, much research is being done to support the benefits of gratitude that have been expressed throughout ancient traditions for centuries. According to reports referring to work done by UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center, it has been found that making a habit out of expressing gratitude impacts the brain’s molecular structure. Gray matter functioning is supported through gratitude, which keeps us happy and healthy on multiple levels. Another study found that through modulating neural activity, gratitude meditation improves emotional regulation and self-motivation.Science aside, we might find ourselves underestimating the power of this simple practice – or, we might find that others are skeptical of our faith and trust in these practices. While the shift is subtle at first, the ripple effect that this shift has is profound. Individually, socially, and culturally, we are moved by appreciation in more ways than we can predict from the start of our exploration of gratitude. Let’s explore some of the benefits of gratitude in the layers of change this virtue is capable of reaching.
1. Individual level
Gratitude practices enhance our personal lives in a variety of ways. As we shift our perception of the world around us, our chemical and energetic frameworks shift, which cause a rise in wellbeing. More specifically, gratitude can:
- Increase happiness and contentment
- Improve self-esteem and self-compassion
- Improve mental and emotional resilience
- Decrease stress and anxiety
- Increase present-moment awareness
- Enhance our spirituality
- Increase patience
- Enhance physical wellbeing
- Improve sleep
2. Social level
The benefits of practicing and expressing gratitude extend far beyond our individual selves. On a social level, this work can:
- Heighten our appreciation for those around us
- Improve our relationships
- Increases pro-social behaviour
- Enhance balance and communication amongst individuals
3. Cultural level
Social impacts eventually transform into more widespread cultural reflections. As we practice gratitude within ourselves and in smaller social groups, we shift the way we communicate and soon, the way we function as a collective. Culturally, gratitude practice can:
- Enhance understanding amongst various groups
- Increase compassion and connection
- Encourage collaboration
There is no telling exactly how gratitude will shift our human collective overtime, but as more of us begin to delve into this work, the impacts that result will be ones based in love, compassion, and appreciation. By beginning within, we quickly see that gratitude practice extends outwards and influences everyone we come into contact with – and each person those individuals go on to engage with as well.
On one hand, cultivating gratitude authentically can take time. We do not shift our perceptions overnight. On the other hand, gratitude practice is something we can only ever explore in the present moment. Each instant is an opportunity to see where we can become more appreciative of what we have around us.We can cultivate gratitude through a variety of practices, including the following:
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
A gratitude journal can help you to shift your perception of the world around you by encouraging you to open your heart and mind to the abundance that already exists. In your journal, start by listing ten things you have to be grateful for in the present moment – big or small. Then, see if you can add another ten – and another ten. As you dive deeper into the abundance and blessings in that exist on multiple levels in your reality, you will start to gain a heightened appreciation for life and for all that you are blessed with. Consider this a written meditation for gratitude and abundance.
2. Take a walk in nature.
The natural world is an effortless place to reconnect with the beauty and grace of the world as it is. Take a walk in nature and tune into all five senses, seeing if you can move into deeper alignment with that elements that surround you. Tune into the blessings of the air that fills you, the earth beneath your feet, and the vibrancy and vitality that is reflected back to you.
3. Write a letter of appreciation to a loved one.
Expressing gratitude is a powerful practice that can strengthen our understanding of just how powerful gratitude really is. Write a letter to someone you love, letting them know all the reasons you are appreciative for their being. Deliver this to them in whichever way makes most sense and then tune in to the energy of love that rises within yourself and within the receiver. Gratitude is a gift that gives in boundless direction.
7 Mindfulness Exercises for Gratitude
In addition to the mindful efforts listed above, there are many mindfulness exercises online that can enhance our embodiment of this incredible virtue. By allowing ourselves to be guided through these practices through talks, guided meditations, and worksheets, we explore new ways of witnessing the blessings around us.
You can deepen your understanding of gratitude and reasons for practicing it by opening both heart and mind to the words of wisdom shared by Tara Brach. In this meditation on gratitude, Brach explores how gratitude can enhance our experience of happiness and presence and our capacity for generosity.
This meditation on gratitude has us tuning into the heart space to reach a state of openhearted awareness for what is present. This nourishing practice helps us to let go of our thoughts as we tune into our radiant heart centre. Gratitude breathes life into our capacity for connection, generosity, and acceptance, all which are nestled deeply within the heart.
An ideal mindfulness exercise for kids and adults alike, this mindfulness activity encourages us to return to a childlike wonder and appreciation for life, incorporating an element of creativity and play in our gratitude exploration. Gratitude practices for kids are powerful tools to help us positively impact the minds of these budding humans.
As we consciously explore our strengths, we gain a greater appreciation for who we are and what we have to offer. This exercise is great for teenagers and adults, and encourages us to take a deeper look at what strengths we embody that can be harnessed even further. As we celebrate our strengths, we find more ways that we can use them to be of benefits personally, professionally, and relationally.
This beautiful 5 minute meditation on gratitude by Gil Fronsdal is an invitation for us to open our senses to the simple though profound things we have to be grateful for. From our senses to the space we occupy, there are infinite blessings that exist all around us. As an alternative to the traditional breath anchor we often return to when the mind wanders in meditation, we are invited to come back to our sense of gratitude to reconnect us to the present moment.
6. Filling Your Cup – Meditation
This guided meditation for gratitude is a beautiful visualization exercise that has us refilling our energetic stores and our capacity for presence, mindfulness, and thankfulness. It invites us to tune into our innate ability to be appreciative for what we do have and has us visualizing the rejuvenation and healing of any areas of our life that are in need of tender love and care.
While we can keep a gratitude journal on our own accord, we can also use gratitude meditation worksheets to prompt us in our written exploration of the abundance we are blessed with. We might begin with, ‘The best part about today was…’ or ‘A valuable lesson I learned was…’ in our exploration.
The power of gratitude is immense. Through meditations on gratitude, mindfulness of this virtue, and a variety of other exercises, we can encourage a shift in perception towards one of appreciation. Starting from where we are right now, we can open our eyes and heart – in this very moment – as we observe and give thanks for all the abundance and blessings that are around and within us.