This weekend, I have been thinking about both inner peace and gratitude. I’ve been party to some conversations where friends have shared how stress has overshadowed their ability to find moments of peace and contentment.
I found myself getting ‘stressed’ because I wanted to complete all versions of Rediscovering My Fabulous Self-Life Audit, and I didn’t. The workbook is yet to be completed. As 2 pm approached my cut-off point for completing my Sunday tasks, I felt somewhat disappointed that the long list of stuff to be done wasn’t.
Walking with the girls (the furry ones) soon switched my mood. The day that had started cold, reminding me that winter in Spain was here (ish), was bright and sunny. I was immediately grateful that I was not in freezing cold anywhere else in the world. And the beauty of nature always restores my inner peace.
Breathing in the beauty of nature and the day, I reminded myself that I had achieved masses already and to be grateful for that.
Oprah Winfrey beautifully captures its essence, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
Gratitude is our way of saying thank you for something we value: blessings, miracles and unexpected gifts. It’s a feeling that emanates from the heart and, therefore, from a place of love. It helps you to connect with spirit, divine inner wisdom and consciousness. It also keeps you grounded in the real world.
Gratitude is a feeling of appreciation or thanks for something someone has done or given. It is a recognition of the value of something and an acknowledgement of the efforts or sacrifices that may have been made to provide it. Gratitude is often associated with positive emotions and can have many benefits, including increased happiness and well-being, improved relationships, and better physical health.
Gratitude is saying thank you and appreciating your gifts, no matter where these come from. They could be innate gifts that you take for granted, e.g. the way that your body knows how to heal, the gifts from Mother Nature, gifts of kindness from friends and strangers, the gift of love from your dogs, a present for your birthday, and any gift that arrives unexpectedly.
Gratitude is a feeling that comes from the heart and reaches all parts of your body. Of course, it is also a choice; you can choose to be grateful for what you have, or you can take it for granted and assume you will always have it – but you wouldn’t do that, would you?
Gratitude is an attitude – a way of being where you do not take things for granted, and it shows up in the way you are.
Gratitude creates connections – within and with everything around you. It strengthens your bond with your mind, body, spirit, soul, and others you meet. It creates a powerful, energetic resonance.
Many of us use the words gratitude and appreciation interchangeably. Appreciation is the recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of something or someone. It is a feeling of gratitude or admiration often accompanied by a sense of pleasure or satisfaction.
Appreciation can also involve acknowledging the value or worth of something and expressing gratitude for it. Both gratitude and appreciation involve recognising and valuing the positive aspects of a person or thing and can contribute to a sense of happiness and well-being.
- Gratitude is about saying thank you, a feeling and an attitude
- Appreciation is acknowledging the perceived value for what you get and the meaning you place on the gift. It’s where you create a positive emotional connection
The way that I look at it is that I say I am grateful and then feel appreciation. I am grateful to awaken to the birds singing and see a glorious sunrise. I appreciate Mother Earth’s beauty and know I am lucky to live in a beautiful part of the world.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a pioneer in gratitude research, describes it as a “felt sense of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life.” It’s not just a reaction to receiving; it’s a chosen attitude towards life itself. This shift in perspective can significantly alter our interaction with our world, creating a mindset that recognises and values the positive, often overlooked aspects of our daily existence. Here he is on YouTube.
The Science Behind Gratitude
The beneficial impacts of gratitude aren’t just anecdotal; they’re supported by scientific research. Studies conducted by institutions like UC Davis Health reveal that maintaining a gratitude journal can significantly decrease stress levels and improve sleep quality.
Another study from Harvard Health Publishing underscores the correlation between gratitude and an overall sense of happiness and improved physical and mental health. These research efforts illustrate that gratitude is more than just a feel-good emotion; it’s a practice with tangible, positive impacts on our health and well-being.
So, if the researchers say it’s good, it might be time to grab your gratitude journal.
Stories of Transformation Through Gratitude
Beyond the lab, the power of gratitude shines in the stories of many people that perhaps we have missed. My story revolves around a fractured spine back in 2018. Gratitude and appreciation featured heavily in my daily healing practice. And it paid off. A few months ago, my DEXA scan showed that my bones are almost normal – on the border of osteopenia and normal. My list of things to be grateful for is long. Most of all, I appreciate my body for knowing how to heal.
Practical Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Cultivating gratitude can be simple and one you can and must make your own. One effective method is keeping a gratitude journal, where daily entries of things you’re thankful for can significantly enhance your awareness of life’s positives.
I have created a journal called The Gratitude Habit with 30 days of gratitude prompts. This works differently from other gratitude journals in that I have included a 5-minute mandala for you to colour. You will find deeper answers by taking 5 minutes to be mindful of the prompt.
To complement this, I also have the 30-day gratitude adventure, where you get a prompt along with your mandala and tips each day for 30 days.
Another approach is writing thank-you notes, not just for material gifts but for acts of kindness, support, or love. Mindfulness practices, such as meditative reflections on gratitude, can also deepen the sense of appreciation for the present moment. These small, consistent actions can profoundly shift how we perceive and interact with the world around us.
The Challenges and Misconceptions
Embracing gratitude is not without its challenges. A common misconception is that gratitude is about constant positivity ignoring life’s difficulties. However, true gratitude acknowledges hardship while still recognising the good. Practising authenticity in gratitude is essential – it’s not about forcing happiness but finding a genuine sense of thankfulness amidst life’s diverse experiences. Overcoming these misconceptions and challenges is part of the journey toward a more grateful life.
How Not To Practice Gratitude
Make it an enjoyable practice, and don’t try too hard. Constructing massive lists and always being appreciative might get a little overwhelming. You may also feel resentful if you are extending gratitude to someone whom you feel isn’t worthy. Consider any unhelpful or toxic relationships you may want to let go of. Be grateful for the lesson. Let go and let love.
Stop and think for a moment if you are the kind of person to downplay your success and achievements. Remember to own your greatness while saying thank you to others for supporting you. You can express gratitude AND take appropriate credit for your own successes.
And finally, not all situations are worthy of gratitude and appreciation. So be true to your heart and show up authentically. Remember, gratitude is a feeling that comes from the heart.
Gratitude in Different Cultures
Gratitude is a universal concept, yet its expression varies across cultures. In many Eastern traditions, gratitude is deeply intertwined with spiritual practices and daily life rituals. Western cultures often emphasise gratitude during specific occasions like Thanksgiving. We can learn a lot about the practice of gratitude by looking at the different ways it is observed across cultures.
Gratitude is often expressed through the gesture of Namaste – placing the hands together with a slight bow. This gesture signifies respect and gratitude, embodying a sense of humility and honour to the other person.
Many Native American tribes use ceremonial gifts and offerings as expressions of gratitude. For example, the tradition of giving ‘give-away’ blankets is a practice among some tribes to show appreciation and honour.
In many Buddhist traditions, gratitude is expressed through acts of kindness, compassion, and meditative practices that cultivate a grateful heart.
And the British. The British often express gratitude with a polite and frequent use of “thank you” in daily interactions, reflecting a culture that values politeness and understatement. Here in Spain, the Spanish are amused as we say thank you so often.
Inner peace refers to a state of mental and emotional calmness where one feels free from stress, anxiety, and worries. It’s often characterised by a sense of contentment, balance, and harmony with oneself and the surrounding environment.
Achieving inner peace can lead to a more fulfilling and happier life, improving overall well-being. But, many people struggle to find inner peace due to various factors, including the pace of life with its demands and distractions. Add to that the constant bombardment of information and the pressure to succeed; no wonder there is so much stress and anxiety.
Other challenges to inner peace include things like midlife chaos, financial difficulties, relationship problems, health issues, or loss. Add to that negative thinking patterns, such as dwelling on past mistakes, feeling like a failure or worrying about the future, can prevent you from achieving a state of calmness and contentment.
To find inner peace in the present and every day, consider these three simple approaches:
Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindfulness helps you stay present and aware of your thoughts and surroundings without judgment. Meditation can reduce stress and promote a sense of calm and balance. Insight Timer is a great resource.
Simplify Your Life
Reducing clutter, whether physical, emotional, or digital, can help lower stress and promote peace. Prioritising essential activities and relationships and saying no to unnecessary commitments can create more space for tranquillity. What can you say no to today? Go on, chuck that rubbish away or have a good clear out of your wardrobe and take it to the local charity shop. The dogs at the shelters are cold now, and would love your old throws.
Focusing on the positives (not toxic positivity) in life and expressing gratitude can shift your mindset from negative to more positive, enhancing feelings of peace and contentment.
Gratitude as a Journey to Inner Peace
The practice of gratitude is not just about acknowledging the good in life; it’s a transformative journey towards inner peace. A quote often attributed to Aesop says, “Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more.”
It suggests that the act of being grateful allows us to appreciate what we already possess, transforming our perspective from one of lack to one of abundance.
In essence, the quote implies that gratitude shifts our focus from what is missing in our lives to what is present. When we practice gratitude, we pay attention to the good things we have, no matter how small or simple they may be. This shift in perspective can lead to a feeling of inner peace, contentment and satisfaction, making what we have feel sufficient and even abundant.
Additionally, the quote also hints at the idea that gratitude has a multiplying effect. By appreciating what we have, we open ourselves up to noticing more goodness around us, increasing our sense of well-being and fulfilment. This doesn’t necessarily mean that gratitude physically increases what we have, but rather, it enriches our experience of life, making our existing circumstances feel more than sufficient.
As we cultivate gratitude, we gradually shift from a mindset of scarcity and stress to one of abundance and peace. This inner peace is not a destination but a continuous process of appreciating and finding contentment in our present circumstances.
However, it takes practice.