If you live on the Gulf Coast, you can expect hurricanes and tropical storms. It comes with the territory of living in the warmer climate and having mild winters. Hurricane Sally was a little bit different. She wasn’t projected to hit us along Mobile Bay. She was supposed to go to the west and while we mourned for what would happen to our favorite cities of New Orleans and then Biloxi, we also breathed a collective sigh of relief that she wasn’t coming here….until she did. Unexpectedly Sally took a turn at us and we were not prepared. Sally hit my hometown with winds gusting at 125 miles an hour. I had ridden out storms before.
We were here when Katrina hit to our west and took a small swipe at us, but even that was nothing like this. Sally took out my neighborhood like it hadn’t been standing here intact since the ‘60s. Hundred-year-old oaks came down, along with loblolly pines and magnolias. Power poles snapped, lines strewn across roadways and in yards. Our entire city was enveloped in darkness. Houses lost roofs and fences. Areas low lying flooded. And when day dawned, we were left with a mess.
I learned a lot in the seven days I spent without power after Sally. I learned that running a generator isn’t all that much fun but it sure beats not having any air in your house in September on the Gulf Coast. I learned that one lamp can mean a whole lot in a house full of darkness. I learned that a hot shower should not be taken for granted ever again. And I learned to be grateful.
I learned to be grateful for the small things that we take for granted every day. I learned to be grateful for hot water and hot meals. Light. Safety. Clean water. I learned to be grateful for friends, family, and coworkers who checked on us every day and offered help and supplies. I learned to be grateful for time spent with my kids who will soon be out of the house. I learned to be grateful that even though we had it bad, we weren’t as bad off as many of my neighbors. And I realized being grateful should be something we do every, single day.
Not only does consciously remembering to be grateful help us through tough times, it also helps our brains. We all want to be happy and have stability and safety and most of the time we have those things, but how often do we remember to be thankful for what we have in the moment?
Gratitude is one of the most powerful human emotions we have. Saying a simple thank you can mean so much more than we realize.
“It’s a funny thing about life. Once you begin to take note of things you are grateful for, you begin to lose sight of the things that you lack.”
The benefits of being grateful are both physical and psychological:
- Positive emotions and thoughts
- More awareness
- Increased self-satisfaction
- Better mood
- Stronger immune system
- Fewer aches and pains
- Improved blood pressure
- Improved sleep
- More empathy
- Improved communication
- Stronger relationships
Practicing gratitude makes us happy. When we thank someone or we get thanked, it makes us happy and brings us enjoyment. Expressing gratitude helps us build relationships with others, which is also good for our mental health. For more information on how getting social is good for our brain, check out our blog HERE.Positive Gratitude Impacts:
- Brings happiness – In a survey done by British psychologist Robert Holden 65 out of 100 people chose happiness over health as a top priority. For more ideas on creating happiness in your life, check out these tips.
- Improves overall health. Having a positive mental outlook has been proven to improve physical health. Maintaining an attitude of gratefulness improves sleep, builds emotional reserves, and improves immunity.
- Makes you more successful at work. Workers who are grateful are more productive, responsible and proactive. They tend to volunteer to take on more responsibilities and have a more positive attitude. Managers who are grateful to their teams generally have stronger group commitment and less turnover. For more on how gratitude can transform your workplace click HERE.
Gratitude and Our Brains
According to neuroscience, some people are wired to be more grateful than others due to neurochemical differences in the nervous system. People who express gratitude and receive gratitude more often have a higher volume of gray matter in the right inferior temporal lobe.
Gratitude affects the brain by:
- Evoking positive thinking which restructures the brain cognitively
- Creates new neural connections to the bliss center of the brain
- Releases dopamine and serotonin—the transmitters responsible for happiness
- Reduces anxiety, fear and stress hormone production
- Releases toxic emotions
- Reduces the perceived feeling of pain
- Improves sleep quality
When we practice gratitude or are the recipient of someone else’s gratitude, our brain is automatically directed to pay attention to what we have instead of what we lack, which allows us to be present in the moment.
Ways to Practice Gratitude:
- Appreciate Yourself. When you’re grateful for the things you can do for yourself, that spirit will shine outward to others. Stand in front of a mirror and say five good things about yourself. For help getting started, check out this list of positive affirmations by The Blissful Mind. (https://theblissfulmind.com/positive-affirmations-list/)
- Use a Gratitude Journal. Keeping a journal of what you’re grateful for is a great way to focus your attention on what you have instead on the positives instead of the negatives and to be happy with the small victories.
- Saying Thank You. We all have someone we could thank every day. When someone does something nice whether big or small when we thank them we create happiness within ourselves. For creative ways to thank someone click HERE.
- Be Happy. Celebrate the big and small. You’ve worked hard to get where you are today. It’s okay to be happy about it. Accepting feeling happy makes us stronger and more grateful.
So the question is: Are you grateful? Can you become thankful for the good things whether they’re big or small? It’s easy to forget to be grateful in the hustle and bustle of our daily lives but every day we wake up and breathe is a gift.
As Zig Ziglar said:
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
This post was written by staff writer Heidi Porter.