Can Gratitude Change Everything?

Can Gratitude Change Everything?

What does it really mean to be grateful?

When you hear the words grateful or gratitude, what comes to mind?

Think for a moment about a person or anything you had or experienced that you feel profoundly grateful for. Maybe nothing, at first, but really think about it. What were the moments that made you smile or feel a sense of relief? The times when you felt so good or shared a special moment, when you see something rare or beautiful, you feel forever changed and the world is somehow different.

It could have been so many things. A sunrise. A sunset. A new love. Really think about that thing that makes you smile, even today, years from when it happened. It can be many things and, hopefully, it is. 

Gratitude and the act of feeling grateful are as much a feeling as they are an experience. They must be felt and they must be experienced. Like so many things we encounter in life, it’s about being immersed in something you can’t describe with words alone. It becomes forever etched into our minds and familiar each time we experience it. We know how it feels and we miss it when it’s not there. Sometimes, we may even forget what it felt like.

Life has a way of shaping us and teaching us, based on our circumstances and experiences. We all encounter a myriad of things. It’s really what we choose to believe about them and ourselves that ultimately determines our relationship with gratitude. 

You know where you’re at with this relationship when someone asks you what you’re grateful for. At times, it can be a natural or a welcomed question. Other times, it’s an extremely loaded one. 

We get hurt. We feel the sting of rejection. The trauma of loss, abuse, or abandonment. So many negative things that can happen, and do. We can easily get lost in them and follow a path to nowhere, devoid of gratitude.

We also feel love, support, and hope. Good things happen, amazing things. All the time. The question is:  Are we aware or present enough to see them?

When we are in pain or deep in suffering, it feels like it’s impossible to do this. Gratitude is likely the furthest thing in our minds. The focus becomes inward and on what we are feeling and experiencing. Rightfully so. We must go within in order to process what we are feeling at those times and in those moments. In order to move forward, we must pass through those times by feeling them and allowing them to wash over us.

To find gratitude again, we must be willing to get out and engage with life again. Whether that means reaching out to family or friends, or getting out in nature or getting out of our comfort zones, we must re-engage with life. By doing this, we allow ourselves to become more open to new experiences and new ways to feel gratitude again.

Finding and practicing gratitude is one of the most worthwhile things we can do, not only for ourselves, but also for those we love and the world around us. According to Andrew Huberman, a Stanford School of Medicine professor of neurobiology and ophthalmology:

Gratitude is a mindset that activates (the) prefrontal cortex (in the brain), and in doing so, sets the context of your experience, such that you can derive tremendous health benefits.

He further discusses the best type of gratitude practice, stating:

The most potent form of gratitude practice is not a gratitude practice where you give gratitude or express gratitude, but rather where you receive gratitude, where you receive thanks.

He also discusses research and studies. One of which involves prefrontal activation while listening to letters being read by a coworker to another coworker expressing gratitude, while wearing brain monitoring equipment. 

You can learn more about what he has to say here on his Huberman Lab podcast. 

Remember, you are never alone and we all experience the spectrum of emotions life has to offer. It’s what we do and how we respond to them that makes us who we are, and life what it is.

We always have a choice and it’s up to us to decide what we do and how we see things. Gratitude is the lens through which we do this and it can change everything, if we allow it to.

Find a way, now, today, to create a gratitude practice. It will be one of the most rewarding and beneficial things you can do for yourself to change your life. Do it because you’re worth it and it will improve your health and your life in the process. It will also change everything!