According to the Greater Good Science Center, being mindfully grateful can enhance our immune system, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, lessen depression, strengthen our relationships and encourage us to take better care of ourselves and others. Check out the videos on the Greater Good Science Center by Emmons on the hows and whys of feeling thankful. So how do we get a piece of this?
Cultivating gratitude is a gift you can give your kids and family through modeling the behavior. It may be enough to express your appreciation for things out loud. Ask them at the end of the day, what happened that made them smile and share your daily high points with them. If you are having a terrible day, focus on how you were grateful it wasn’t something worse. It could almost always have been worse.
Journaling is a research proven winner in the gratitude contest. Folks who write down what soothed their soul were more able to keep those feelings going. It has the added benefit of allowing you to look back on what you wrote when you are not feeling the love, and remember a better moment.
But what if writing it down is a road block? In the era of phones with cameras, I encourage you to take a picture. The quality, lighting, style et cetera doesn’t matter. Just capture an image that will call your mind back to what you were feeling at the moment you hit the shutter.
Save the images to a special album. Make a collage of them. Use the collage as your screen saver or have it scroll through the album on your desktop. Collect them all onto a memory card and play it on a digital picture frame.
Most smart phones have microphones. Hit record to tell yourself about a good moment. Catch a loved one singing in the shower, a beautiful few seconds of music or the sound of rain patter when you are dry and warm inside. Record someone saying what they most appreciate about you or their infectious laugh. Make yourself a happiness mix tape to play when you need it most.
Smell recording needs to happen so I can record fresh baked bread and cookies, morning tea and coffee, the woods after it rains, the scent of my child’s head or my dog after her bath. Somebody please get on this.
Most importantly, don’t keep the joy to yourself. Share what gives your life meaning. Joy is one of those few things that increases the more you give it away. Making everyday a little bit more like Thanksgiving (minus the drunk uncle and screaming cousins) is something we can all celebrate.