Small moments matter. That sentiment rests deeply in my thoughts as I reflect on a 30-day self-imposed gratitude challenge focused on mindfully verbalizing, documenting, and contemplating the many things and people I'm thankful for in this life.
With the holiday season drawing near, finding ways to show your appreciation to others and adopt a more grateful mindset can do much more than prep you for some holiday cheer. Here is how I approached my 30-day gratitude challenge and what I learned along the way.
What Is Gratitude, Exactly?
The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence explains that gratitude is an emotion that supports healing. It says, "Gratitude is a state of mind that arises when you affirm a good thing in your life that comes from outside yourself, or when you notice and relish little pleasures."
That may sound simple, but when you're faced with a challenging situation, it can be difficult to find goodness. However, there's always something to be thankful for. Whether it's the sunshine on your face, a hot meal, or simply the laughter of a child at the moment when you needed a smile, small things bring us joy.
When I started this gratitude challenge, my reflections focused on family, events, and objects. I expressed gratitude for my website's new infrastructure. I jotted down words of thanks for my cozy home, engaging projects at work, and a business trip to Canada.
After a few weeks, my sentiments shifted. I started a conversation with myself about nurturing loyal friendships, conjuring internal strength, and honoring my personal dignity.
One day during the challenge, I noted in my journal: "I am thankful for feeling strong, empowered, and resilient today. I deserve better and will take the steps to honor my value and worth despite the challenges that come with it."
Although it's two brief sentences, rereading these thoughts of gratitude helps me intentionally focus on my emotional self-care. As I move forward post-challenge, I realize that I pause more often before reacting, and I try to frame my next gesture or sentence with kindness for those I'm speaking to, including myself.
Positive Effects of Gratitude
While reviewing my journal entries and thinking about the interactions I've experienced, it's clear that being mindful and focusing on gratitude has elevated my mood, reduced my stress levels, and changed my perspective on current situations.
For example, I've been experiencing feelings of monotony with my routine. Each day runs into the next with its predictable pattern. During this challenge, I took a few moments of silence to express gratitude for the things that I have the opportunity to experience each day: appreciative readers, a welcoming yoga studio, a comfortable office, a full refrigerator, kind colleagues, and so much more. I purposely shifted my mindset to the bounty in my days.
When we experience gratefulness, we have better life satisfaction, according to the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence. Our ability to experience love, embrace joy, feel connection, and harness enthusiasm increases while our risk for anxiety and depression reduce.
As Francesca Gino, an associate professor who researches the science of gratitude, says in an article for The Harvard Gazette, gratitude influences decision-making, how we understand others, our levels of motivation, and how we reflect on ourselves. Gino states, "Receiving expressions of gratitude makes us feel a heightened sense of self-worth, and that in turn triggers other helpful behaviors toward both the person we are helping and other people, too."
According to UC Davis Health, gratitude is also connected to a 23 percent reduction in stress hormone levels (cortisol), which can help to ward off certain health conditions, boost immune functioning, and even lower blood pressure.
I can attest to this aspect. I manage several health conditions, including eczema, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease. Since putting gratitude at the forefront of my thoughts, each of my health conditions has shown improvement. It's amazing how the mind and body heal one another.
Bottom line: gratitude is good for us, and I'll be implementing it into my daily routine, one thank-you at a time.
Starting a Gratitude Practice
Whether you focus on self-gratitude, expressing thankfulness for others, or spreading kindness to your community at large, the ripple effect of gratitude can be ignited with a few words.
I discovered this practice doesn't require a huge time commitment or need to be elaborate. Some days, I write one sentence of affirmations to myself in my journal to show love and gratitude for my personal journey. Other days, I send random thinking-of-you texts to friends.
Here are a few things you can do to savor the positive interactions (and tough lessons) in your life while building a more resilient, grateful mindset.
- Keep a journal. Write down three things you're grateful for each day. No entry is silly. I've given thanks for chocolate! The secret is to keep going and reflect on your daily life to make a mental and physical impact on your health.
- Speak out loud. Tell yourself what you've done well and celebrate it. Today, I'm grateful for overcoming a bout of procrastination and for choosing a healthy snack. Self-talk may sound awkward, but your brain is listening. Feed it good thoughts!
- Talk to others. Let people know when you appreciate them. A quick call to a relative or dropping a card in the mail to a friend not only nurtures your relationships, but it also lifts your spirits.
- Pause your thoughts. I'm no stranger to overthinking. When I notice topics that I have no control over taking up space in my mind, I try to focus on the lesson it's teaching me, then I focus on letting it go and trusting the universe has a plan for me. This moment is just a step in my journey.
I've shared my experiences and the benefits of focusing on gratitude. Now, will you give it a try? Share something you're thankful for on Instagram with us by tagging @toms_of_maine. We're here to celebrate your joys, too!
Image Source: Angela Tague
The views and opinions expressed in any guest post featured on our site are those of the guest author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of Tom's of Maine.
Why It's Good
Practicing gratitude helps you harness a more grateful mindset. Taking a few minutes to say thank you to others for small gestures and appreciating the insights in your day will not only boost your happiness, but it might just be the kindness that others in your circle need to elevate their day, too. Try expressing thankfulness today and see how you feel—emotionally and physically.