Why Gratitude Matters

26 September, 2016

Have you been hearing so much about 'practising gratitude' that it kind of gets filtered out?  It can be a life-transforming practice, an antidote to worry, anxiety and depression, and yet a lot of us struggle to fit it in to our busy daily lives.  Here's a possible easy way that allows you to reap the benefits.

I've started a new practice in the morning that I commit to every single morning, usually before I've opened my eyes and it's made a huge difference to my life.  My stress levels are significantly reduced, I'm calmer and seem to be able to get through anything with my toddler!

As you know I am a new mum (can I still be classed as 'new'?) and suffer sleep deprivation from time to time.  Without being aware of it consciously, I had been stuck in this thought-feeling pattern in the mornings which went a little something like this:  woke up (or was woken up), immediate automatic thought was 'I haven't had enough sleep' and the second automatic thought was: 'how will I cope with my day?' followed by a lurching, flipping feeling of anxiety in my stomach.  Then I would usually find the morning stressful as I tried to 'cope with my day' and fit everything into it.  You can see that I was already starting the day with a sense of scarcity, of 'not-enoughness' right from the onset.

Luckily I also have an NLP coach who keeps me tuned in to the right path in life.  She helped me identify this particular thought-feeling pattern, and, more importantly, change it.  Now when I wake up in the morning, before I have opened my eyes or checked my phone or succumbed to the poking and proddings of a toddler (if I'm lukcy!) I do something that looks like this:

Wake up.  Think to myself in words:  'I'm grateful for the sleep I have had.  I'm grateful for my warm, and comfortable bed.  I'm grateful for a healthy, happy and spirited daughter.  I'm grateful for........' and on it goes until I can't think of anything else on that day.  Sometimes I drift back off to sleep again as I do this, but that's OK.  Then I start with my intentions for the day.  I say to myself, quite deliberately in words inside my head:  'I intend that the day goes smoothly, that we arrive everywhere we need to be on time.  That I feel connected and attuned to my daughter.  That she gets all the sleep she needs during the day...' and so on, until I run out of things to intend.

It's so simple, and yet the change has been so dramatic.  I find myself automatically during the day just thinking of things I'm grateful for in my life and I experience a sense of wellbeing.  This isn't something I consciously do, it's just something that now automatically happens.  Score.

We've know about the positive effects of gratitude for some time in psychology and NLP,  yet I've struggled to find a way of practising it that I could commit to and maintain.  I don't like having to write stuff down in a journal because it feels a bit forced to me, and also, just another thing to do and get ticked off the list.  The other key thing about this practice and why it works is that I just say it, quite deliberately, in words inside my head, because that's often the way my brain likes to process stuff, through words. If you're more visual, you could just make pictures inside your head of what you appreciate in life.  I don't force myself to feel anything, either.  If I feel nice then great, if not, then it doesn't matter, as long as I'm doing it. Remember that your unconscious brain doesn't know the difference between what you're experiencing in real time, what's remembered and what's imagined, it just responds as if it were real time.  So the very act of doing this is what matters.

What you choose to focus on, MATTERS.  It's the small things that make the biggest differences. Here is a link to another article that my coach sent me this morning, with a bit more research on why gratitude practice matters. 

Give it a go, and make it as easy as possible for yourself to do it.  Don't let having to do it in a certain way be an obstacle!  Do it your way and reap the benefits.

As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

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