As I drive my son to nursery each morning I really notice the stress and intense emotion on the faces in the other cars. I feel so happy when I notice a smiley face passing by.
We get so lost in our emotions; they feel so physical and sometimes overwhelming. We take ourselves to so many places in our minds (lists, memories, worries, desires, planning) that we forget to be here, noticing the pleasure of now. Gratitude is one of the things that can change your life. That sounds very dramatic, but it's true.
Cultivating gratitude reduces cortisol, the stress hormone, enormously. Studies also show that recalling things that you are grateful for before bedtime improves sleep quality. Thankfulness has such an impact upon our bodies that our heart rate and blood pressure slows. One very useful impact of gratitude is the link to a stronger immune system; there are links between being grateful and optimism. Optimism has been associated with the increased bodily resources to fight off disease. You can read more about it here
Some of my own personal experiences of what gratitude can do, include courage to look at things. I was struck by a particular quote on Twitter this morning: 'Don't try to suppress the emotions that you don't like. Instead try to understand them'. Gratitude can increase courage to look at the not so easy things. Being in a good place, grateful and optimistic, puts us in a fortuitous position to deal with the difficult emotions. Becoming interested in the difficult feelings reduces the impact. Fear, that's a big one. It creeps in and can feel very physical and startling. It tends to grow if we hide from it. However, if we feel courageous and start to pick it apart we can reduce the impact it has both physically and psychologically. These strong emotions are transient; we don't need to hold on to them. They can become like clouds in the sky, just passing. Take an interest in emotions, don't suppress them.
Gratitude really does make us psychologically more resilient. Just a few examples include a reduction in negative emotions like envy and resentment. When we notice what we are thankful for it increases our self-esteem too. Traumatic experiences and the impact that they can have can also be reduced when we have in mind the things that we are grateful for. Read more here. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-gratitude
It's all about balance, and not getting lost in the junk of yesterday. The richest people are those who feel a sense of peace, and this often comes from an attitude of gratitude for this small things. Feeling thankful - really is quite a worthwhile investment. I also think it's written all over our faces.
Cultivate gratitude by writing down lists of the good stuff or meditating, concentrating on things that make your heart sing.
Sitting quietly, allow yourself to follow your breath. It's ok to become distracted, just invite yourself back. Begin to become aware of your heart and how it feels. Just notice, don't change it. Then when you feel ready focus on something that you are grateful for -explore how it feels when you focus on it. Bring it to mind in a way that works for you, pictures, stories, emotions. Just stay with this for 5 to 10 minutes.