Right now, we’re living in a stressful world. There’s no doubt about it.
Despite relaxation of restrictions, we’re still in the midst of a global pandemic. The 24-hour news cycle, and our access to technology, doesn’t help. We take our devices to the toilet to check Facebook or call a loved one and keep our phones on the table over dinner in case an important text, notification or email pops up.
While a little stress can be good for motivation and productivity, chronic stress is really bad for us. Research shows long-term, chronic stress can lead to disease.
But there is a way to help manage stress. A way of coping with the unavoidable challenges of life. And it isn’t something that will eat further into your valuable time or require an extra task to be added to your “To Do” list. It can be done while you’re doing all those other things. It’s based on ancient wisdom and backed by modern science.
Gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness because it helps us reset and shift our perspective. In essence, it helps us change our minds. And when we practice it, it sets off a chain reaction of positive benefits.
In my book, Natural Exhilaration, I define gratitude as conscious recognition and delight in moments of happiness, slivers of joy or routine thankfulness throughout your day. Gratitude helps you feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve your health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships.
Research into gratitude from Berkley University found that those who were more focused on the things they were grateful for than on things that stressed or upset them were more optimistic and happier with their lives, and even had fewer visits to the doctor. Gratitude has also been shown to improve sleep, lower stress and depression and improve heart health.
There are millions of thoughts that can ignite gratitude but if you’re not sure where to start, here’s ten simple things to be grateful for:
Birdsong in the morning
When you wake up, take a moment to hear the birds and be grateful for their beautiful song. For me, the magpies start warbling at around 5am and its wonderful to rejoice in their song.
If you can’t hear the birds from your bedroom, you could be grateful for the morning sun, the comfort of your bed, the person lying beside you, or the opportunity to greet a new day.
The first sip of yum
Next you can be grateful for that delicious fresh running water, coffee, tea or kombucha you can enjoy, freshening your palate and getting you out from under the doona.
Clean, flushing loos
The wonders of a flushing toilet are next. If you’ve spent any time travelling to developing countries, you’ll know this is a wonderful luxury and something to be celebrated.
A hot shower
This is truly a wonder of modern life so take a moment to be grateful for the fabulous feeling of turning a tap and delighting in hot water caressing your skin.
A choice at breakfast
Breakfast of course is another moment to be grateful. And for most of us we can choose from fresh fruits, porridge, yoghurt, avocado toast, smoothies, eggs and all manner of wonderous tastes at the press of a button.
Take a sliver of gratefulness that you’ve got friends or work colleagues to connect with – even if it’s virtually. Whether you have a ‘work wife’ who adds sparkle to your day, or receive a kind or funny text from a friend, enjoy the benefits of being loved and cared for.
Hugs are another powerful experience to rejoice in. We all need them. They fill us with oxytocin, which makes us happy, but we get a double dose when we notice how awesome they are.
The sun on your skin is truly a miracle of nature and something that fills our cup like nothing else. Seek it out and rejoice in its brilliance. (Remember to be sunsafe!)
A safe bed
A warm safe bed in which to reflect on a day of wonderful joys and snuggle into the covers till morning. This indeed is one of many amazing gifts we have.
The secret to the miracle of gratitude is to make it a habit. And when you do, I promise it will change your life.