As we wrap up 2017 (and all of our Christmas presents), we may find ourselves thanking others for all they’ve done for us during the past year. For some people, it’s easy to think about what they’re grateful for. Some feel grateful for the love and support from family and friends. Others are grateful for their health, their home, and the clean air they breathe.
Neuroscience and positive psychology research has demonstrated that there are many mental health benefits of expressing gratitude. That’s because, this seemingly simple practice can activate the part of the brain that produces dopamine, which is the chemical responsible for giving you that ‘zest for life’. But, before you go out a buy a new gratitude journal, consider whether this is the practice for you.
If you are going through a hard time, it’s not always easy to think about what you’re grateful for and it is probably the last thing you want to do! While it won’t hurt you to write a list of all that you are thankful for, if keeping a gratitude journal becomes more of a chore than a pleasant experience, you might like to try this instead (or in addition)…
Start by asking yourself what you need (and I certainly do not mean a new car or new gadget – save those items for Santa’s list). Think about the universal human needs, such as the need for connection, kindness, love, and peace. Write them down.
Then, turn your needs into wishes for yourself. For example:
May I be connected to others
May I be kind to myself and others
May I love myself just as I am
May I live in peace
Pick one or two phrases and offer them to yourself. Maybe you will offer the phrase to yourself when you need it the most, or maybe you will get into the habit of offering yourself the phrases on a daily basis as part of your morning ritual. See what works for you.
These phrases are truly gifts that you can be grateful for when you receive them.