When I was little, I read fairy tales of fierce dragons and brave knights. I solemnly believed in fairies and swore I had seen them at the bottom of the garden! And every year I diligently wrote my letter to Santa explaining how good I had been. The world was full of wonder and amazement. Then like everyone else, I had to grow up and was suddenly landed with responsibilities, bills, rules, and the cold hard reality that life isn’t always fair. But I never lost my child-like wonder and I owe it all to gratitude.
Ever since I can remember at the end of the day before bed, I would say my prayers and list out all the people and things I was thankful for. Such a simple tradition, passed down by my family, that took less than 5 minutes, but this has stayed with me my whole life and has shaped me into the person I am today. Even as I have moved away from organised religion, I continue to end my day by listing all the things I am thankful for.
However, it is easy to be grateful when life is good but learning to be grateful when life is hard, will change your life in unexpected and wonderful ways. It has gotten me through some of the worst days of my life! Because even if there are only 1 or 2 things to list, I still do it. This keeps my focus on the positive aspects of life and to be honest, it massively reduces stress. When you actively seek the good, suddenly you realise there is so much more than you ever realised, and life no longer seems as bad. Suddenly the tea tastes better, the stars shine brighter and you start noticing the rainbows after the rain.
When explaining this to my nieces, I tell them to look for the magic in the everyday.
There is a lot of neuroscientific research behind the benefits of gratitude. When we express gratitude and receive it, our brain releases dopamine and serotonin, the two crucial neurotransmitters responsible for our emotions, and they make us feel “good”. They enhance our mood immediately, making us feel happy on the inside.
Also, a study done by Zahn et al in 2009 revealed that the reason that some of us are naturally more grateful than others is due to a neurochemical difference at the central nervous system. But by consciously practising gratitude every day we can help strengthen these neural pathways and ultimately create a permanent grateful and positive nature within ourselves.
At the weekend, in my Glow Through The 7 Chakras retreat we worked through some of the common
blockages at each chakra that stop us from feeling grateful. One example of this, is not feeling worthy of good things because of a blockage at the solar plexus chakra. Blockages occur when life gets overwhelming and doing the internal work to untangle these false beliefs can have profound benefits for our overall health. Being able to facilitate this holistic growth and exploration in the attendees was one of the best weekends of my career and I want to thank them for being so open, kind, accepting, and incredible.
I think the thing that shocked everyone was the realisation that gratitude is a choice, and you make that choice every day.
What will you choose today: stress or gratitude?