December is here, the month of cheering, enjoying family and having nicer weather. Also, the time to say goodbye to 2020 and to welcome the new year 2021. This year really shook us up. There were so many challenges, we could not see our loved ones, jobs were lost, and we were in midst of an unpredictable situation. However, I did notice there were positives that came from it: many people realized they needed a break from their rushed and hectic lifestyle, others started to appreciate their connection to loved ones and how much that means to them, and others started to put their well-being as a priority.
I believe that if we view life circumstances with an attitude of gratitude, we can shift our experience even if it is a challenging one. Since this is the last blog of 2020, I want us to focus on the positive and how can we make gratitude the theme of this month and carry over this feeling towards the new year that awaits us. After all we just celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday dedicated to giving thanks so why not keep this momentum going.
Gratitude is a powerful emotion. It brings us close to our essence and can alter any perceptions we have. It is said to be magical and healing for our bodies, mind, and elevates our spirit. When we are grateful for who we are, what we have, or where we are in life then everything somehow becomes livelier and we feel happier. Gratitude is not just about saying we are thankful is a feeling we experience, a true sensation of appreciation that comes from the core of who we are and something we wish to share with everyone around us.
The dictionary defines gratitude as the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. That got me thinking that it is not just about us, it is about showing others we appreciate them too. The act of going an extra step to show kindness to others is as simple as wishing a stranger a nice day or sending a text wishing the best to someone we know has been dealing with a tough situation. It is those little acts or moments of selfless care and appreciation when we are not expecting anything in return, because they come from our hearts.
I was curious about the psychology of gratitude, so I did a little searching and something that really stood out to me is that gratitude is regarded as either a trait or a state (of being). As a trait, an individual practices gratitude as part of their daily life and it would be considered a character strength to possess gratitude. As a trait, gratitude can be developed with practice and awareness.
When a person experiences the rich emotion from someone expressing gratitude for them, it is referred to as state. Gratitude is both a trait and a state. Remarkably interesting is if gratitude is a foundational human emotion, then it makes sense why humans have been studying it for millennia. (positivepsychology.com).
If we practice and experience gratitude as well share that gratitude, then over time it can become a stronger state of being influencing many others to feel it too. Can you imagine what the world could be if each one of us dedicated just a few minutes a day to be thankful? I believe we could collectively create a more peaceful world where we appreciate more and therefore ease and pleasure could be felt within and around us.
A practical way to start is to pay attention to the little things, even those we take for granted; those that are the easiest to start showing gratitude for. A few examples are the air we breathe, the body we have which is working miraculously to perfection to keep us alive, the beautiful earth we live in, a hug from someone we love, the smell of yummy food, the sound of our favorite song playing, a puppy that is excited to see us, the warm sun in a cold day, the shine of a full moon, or when you get that green light in traffic. The list is endless of “ordinary” things we experience daily giving us a sense of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude over time has shown to boost happiness, decrease stress, decrease insomnia, decrease pain, strengthen immune systems, create healthier relationships, and can even lead to better academic and professional performance. Gratitude is noticing the goodness in life and celebrating the present moment.
I invite you to ask yourself, what am I most grateful for? I also encourage you to ask and answer this question as many times as you need during your day and make a list of those things. Give it time and show up to your practice daily. Soon enough you will start to notice how your reality shifts and there will be more good days than ever. Gratitude opens you up to receiving, to allowing life to surprise you and to share with you new opportunities. Imagine the life and world we can individually and collectively co-create if we were more focus on what brings joy to our lives and say thank you to the blessing of being here and now.
Blessing You with Joy,
Arelys Perez Mustafa