• Scott Hackman

Gratitude and Growth

The daily practice of gratitude, isn’t something that is often at the top of our to-do lists, however, it’s essential to our emotional, physical and mental well-being.

Our brains are hard-wired for the negative—to see what’s wrong, to solve problems, to identify the critical voice that echoes throughout the day. This natural cycle repeats itself over and over again, often leaving us feeling defeated, exhausted and overwhelmed. As we enter the month of November, there’s no better time than now, to take a deeper look inside ourselves and make a commitment to embrace a lifestyle of gratitude. It is scientifically proven that when we practice gratitude and set aside time to list, name and recognize what we’re grateful for, our mental and physical health begin to shift. Rather than feeling stressed and pressured, we begin to embrace a sense of calm, peace and strength.

According to Psychology Today, by turning your outlook into one of gratitude, it “Stimulates

two important regions in our brains: the hypothalamus, which regulates stress, and the ventral tegmental area, which plays a significant role in the brain’s reward system that produces feelings of pleasure. Additionally, researchers found that both voluntary and involuntary smiling had the same effect on brain activity. You can convince your brain and body that you’re happy even when you’re not just by forcing yourself to smile.” Whether you feel like it or not, guiding your brain into a new pattern is proven to be beneficial in the long-run. This is where the actual practice of gratitude comes into play.

Dr. Brene Brown, PhD, LMSW spent 12 years researching 11,000 pieces of data on joy and gratitude and she states, “I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.”

Her findings went on to show that practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives. “Practice is the part that really changed my life, that really changed my family and the way we live every day. When I say practice gratitude, don’t mean “the-attitude-of-gratitude” or feeling grateful, I mean practicing gratitude,” said Brene. The folks she observed shared a common and tangible gratitude practice in common—they made it a priority and they made it a habit. While some utilized gratitude journals to record what they were thankful for each day, others set aside a specific time to name their grateful thought of the day. These practices made all the difference in re-wiring their thought processes and resulted in a life full of joy!

Rather than searching for joy, implement the practice of gratitude into your daily life. Here’s some ideas to help inspire:

  • Practice mindfulness each day. Use this time of calm to reflect and focus on what you’re grateful for in that moment.

  • Make a commitment to write down a few things you’re grateful for each day, in your gratitude journal. At the end of the year, you can then reflect on all the wonderful things that you expressed gratitude for.

  • Share your spirit of gratitude with others. Whether it’s with your family around the dinner table or before starting a weekly team meeting—establish a sense of community for this practice.

  • Set aside a specific time each day to practice gratitude. Set a reminder for yourself until it becomes a habit.

As a personal example, me, my partner, Andrea and our two children have been practicing the value of gratitude this month. At dinner, we each have to name something physical or tangible that we are thankful for. By giving the practice some parameters, each family member must name something specific—this week, our son was thankful for his stuffed animal Coo-Coo, while our daughter was thankful for our real dog, Willow! By practicing gratitude daily in this way, the idea is to consciously not overlook the small things in life, which often results in becoming dissatisfied. By focusing on gratitude for the physical things, it deafens the voice that says, “this isn’t good enough” or “we need more.”

What will you do to daily exercise your muscle of gratitude? Let’s all commit to integrating gratitude into our daily routines as we work to build emotional intelligence and inspire others through our continued loyalty to self-development and becoming the best version of ourselves!

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