In the first session in this series, we looked at awareness of breath as a way to calm our minds once fight or flight mode has been engaged.

In the second session, we are looking at the power of gratitude to shift our perspective from stress to inner calm. Here’s why gratitude works.

The Negativity Bias

We’re wired for survival. Consequently, we tend to focus on all that is wrong in our lives, even when there’s a lot that is right. This is the reason we focus more on the threats than the opportunities and resources we have access to. As hunter gatherers, if we missed the apple on the tree, we would survive, but if we missed the tiger in the bushes, we wouldn’t have made it. We retain the genes of those who survived. Because we pay more attention to threats, we more often experience feelings such as stress and hopelessness.

Reset With Gratitude

One way to rewire our brain to not just focus on threats is to feel gratitude. Bringing to mind someone or something that we’re grateful for and taking a few moments to feel the gratitude in our bodies, sends a message to our brains, that life is ok for now. I don’t need to be in a state of fight or flight. This can help in bringing an immediate sense of well-being. Try it for yourself. In the video below, I go over the process to invite gratitude and then extend loving kindness wishes for the people that we’re feeling gratitude for.

Studies show that gratitude can help us reduce stress, sleep better, and stay healthier.

How To Practice Gratitude

Here are the three steps to feeling gratitude:

  1. Shift your perspective by thinking of something or someone positive
  2. Feel gratitude for this person or thing
  3. Take a few moments to feel the sensations of gratitude in your body (it’s the emotions experienced in the body, emerging from your feelings  of gratitude that help rewire the brain for well being. Just thinking about gratitude and moving on isn’t enough).

Try this practice of reconnecting with gratitude during your day or when ever you feel stressed. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. A hand-washing and gratitude exercise — remember to feel gratitude when washing your hands.
  2. 3 breaths when you need it – first breath invite mind to be here with body; second breath think of one thing/person you’re grateful for; third breath, feel it in your body.
  3. Journaling practice – before bed write down 3 things you’re grateful for.
  4. Gratitude for your good qualities — acknowledge and feel your good qualities

Participants’ Comments From The Gratitude Practice

Once you try this practice, please share your experience and questions, if any.

Here were some observations shared by the participants after the gratitude practice.

  1. One person shared that sending gratitude along with wishes of well being and hope helped her quiet her mind.
  2. It was nice to focus on someone else in this practice.
  3. This practice of gratitude helped to shift to a mindset of abundance. Normally our minds go to what we don’t have and wanting more and more. In this practice we shift our perspective to what we have. This then allows us to take note of what we have and share with others.