We can build resilience through practicing gratitude

I cried because I had no shoes until I saw a man who had no feet” -Persian poet Sa’di

While one can despair about one’s situation, there is always someone less fortunate. These days everything in the news is distressing from rhetoric from politicians about caravans of criminals coming our way to election day approaching.

Here is an entry each from my children’s gratitude journal.

6 y/old’s: 1 July 2015 “I am happy that we will have a dog!”

12 y/old’s: 25 Jun 2015 “I am glad I am not a servant or slave or an orphan.”

Gratitude is cultivated by purposely choosing to pay attention to those things that you have a deep appreciation for in life. It is a felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for both the small and big things that come along with life. When we have a deep sense of gratitude, we actually have a sense of awe. That positive emotional experience has been shown to improve resiliency and improve overall mental and physical well being.

There are numerous benefits that scientific research has uncovered, associated with purposefully practicing gratitude. People who intentionally practice gratitude are more satisfied with life, overall happier, more optimistic about their futures and are better at handling challenging situations.

How do we actually cultivate and practice this? One of the essential ingredients is that you have got to actually believe it and intentionally practice it. The second element is the deeper the processing, the greater the benefit the person experiences. So along with the thinking of “I’m grateful to have that person in my life”, you ask a deeper question. What if that person wasn’t in your life? You may think about a loved one and about the absence of that person – it can bring you to tears. But it’s not tears of sadness. It’s tears of appreciation.

Gratitude is an emotional experience that can be cultivated by positively reflecting on aspects of our lives. We have decreased levels of stress, that can produce chronic wear and tear, instead the practice enable us to become resilient. We have a greater sense of fulfillment and we’re more connected with others. We have more vitality and energy to do things which creates greater alertness and joy. We are more likely to be generous, compassionate, and engage in pro-social behaviors. We often sleep better, exercise more and ultimately feel better rested and happier.

What are the gratitude practices that you can do? Thankfully researchers have identified the type of activities and the frequency. Keeping a gratitude journal is an effective method – reflecting on your week and identifying five things for which you are grateful, or were surprised by in a positive way. Research has pinpointed that once a week as the optimal frequency to engage in gratitude journaling. We need to engage in that deeper processing of how that positive event, or that person, or action, if it never happened, how would that have affected us.

I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude.” -Brene Brown