During the holidays, we all tend to give a little extra attention to what we are thankful for, especially in November. By December, though, we are past being thankful and on to replacing those blessings with even better blessings. I’m not pointing fingers without pointing four right back at myself. Thanksgiving tends to give us the opportunity to focus on our blessings for a moment, which is better than what the rest of the year often gets.
As hard as I am on this temporary boost in gratitude, it turns out that it can have profound effects on happiness for the remainder of the year. Despite the fact that many of us are no longer posting three things we are grateful for each morning, the effects of doing so actually improve our “gratefulness” for the months to come.
As it turns out, the practice of showing gratitude actually rewires our brains to actually be more grateful, even after we have stopped intentionally thinking about it. Additionally, research shows people are happier, sleep better, and experience less fatigue and inflammation following a gratitude study. I don’t know about you, but I have spent a ton of money on 15-minute exercise programs, 30-minute healthy meal plans, and 3-minute breathing techniques guaranteed to tighten my tummy in 6 weeks. I have been willing to try anything to improve my health and well-being, as long as it isn’t too hard or time-consuming.
If you are like me and always looking for the fastest way to get from here to there, practicing gratitude is for you. Talk about the most bang for your buck (and time). In less than a minute each day, you can be on your way to better physical and mental health. By intentionally thinking through experiences from your day or things you are grateful for, you can begin to experience the lasting benefits of improved health and happiness.
Are you waiting for the catch? There’s no catch.
Just kidding. There is definitely a catch. To experience the benefits of gratitude, you must actually be grateful for the things you list. Simply slopping down a few lines on a piece of paper or looking at the grass and mumbling, “I’m grateful for the grass,” isn’t going to do it. You must actually feel the emotions of gratitude. You must have a neural connection that lights up your amygdala and recognizes the feeling as gratitude. The more time you spend thinking about the feeling of gratitude by reliving the moment and experiencing the feelings of joy and appreciation, more faster and more deeply the connections will take root.
So, it really isn’t a catch. It’s actually part of it. But you probably wouldn’t be surprised to learn that I have participated in a gratitude challenge where I checked the box of listing my three items and moved on without giving the items a second thought or even a temporary pause. As cold as it sounds, I did that. All I’m asking is that you actually think about the items you are listing. Meditated on them for just a minute, 60 seconds. Actually feel appreciation and gratitude for what you have. In those magical seconds, your brain will turn on the disco ball and start making incredible connections that you will benefit from for months to come. All it takes is a single spark of appreciation.