It’s a common phrase, one many of us say to ourselves and others when we encounter the anxiety of difficult situations: I’m too blessed to be stressed. Though that sentiment may be true for a lot of people, the reality is that many of us live with the opposite mindset: I’m too stressed to be blessed. We rush through over-scheduled days with undernourished bodies and spirits, and we find that at the end of the day, we can’t even remember the beauty in our lives. This has long-term consequences. Although it’s so common that we’ve begun to believe it’s normal, ongoing stress is not a benign experience. It leads to an onslaught of chemical consequences that can cause everything from increased symptoms of depression to hypertension. Our mission at BrainTap is to help you learn how to stimulate your body’s internal relaxation response so that you can take control of your anxiety, safeguarding your body against the damage stress can cause. Gratitude is a practical and free remedy for stress, one that is easily underestimated. Gratitude is simply an acknowledgment of good. It is the practice of setting aside time to reflect on the benevolence of the world outside us. Many people have well-worn neural pathways that consistently remind them of what is wrong in their lives; they meditate on what is stressful, disappointing, uncomfortable, or exhausting. The good news is that even if we have long practiced the habit of negativity, we always have the option of choosing a new way to think. We are much more in control of our thoughts than we may believe, and every moment of our lives represents an opportunity to forge a new path. You can start right this moment. How to cultivate gratitude If you’d like to begin transforming your thoughts with a gratitude practice, consider starting with one of these practical tips:
- Keep a gratitude journal and make a habit of writing in it each day. Don’t pressure yourself to create full journal entries, particularly as you’re beginning your practice. A simple bullet-point list of good things that happened throughout the day is enough to shift your mindset.
- Say thank you. When someone does something for you that is kind, encouraging, or helpful, say thank you. Be as specific as possible in your thanks, telling them exactly what they did and how it made your day better. Speaking your gratitude to another person is an easy way to deepen the experience, making it more likely that your brain will store and keep the positive memory.
- Spend time in nature, and consider how amazing it is that we are always surrounded by beauty that is free of charge. Let this remind you to look for the small gifts in your life that are easily overlooked in the hustle of everyday life.
- Volunteer for an organization that seeks to improve the lives of others. Much of our stress comes from being hyper-focused on the little intricacies of our own lives. Turning our attention toward others can go a long way in helping us maintain a healthy perspective. We all have resources to give, and giving those resources can serve as a reminder that we are enough and we have enough.