So what’s it all about? Essentially, a gratitude practice is about making the effort to tune into the things you are thankful for each day. To gently bring focus onto the good. In evolutionary terms, we are programmed to focus on the negative as a way of staying safe (“remember, not to eat those red berries again as they made us so ill” or “don’t go back there, that’s where we encountered the bear” kind of vibe). And our modern, stress-filled, doom-news life exacerbates this, with our nervous systems feeling like they are under pretty constant attack.
Research has shown that moving focus onto the good can help rewire our brains to bring more balance between the good and bad. It’s not about reducing negative feelings (you don’t have to pretend the bad stuff’s not happening), but instead it magnifies positive ones (Robert A. Emmons “The Gratitude Project”)
It calms the nervous system (my flagship for ALL you want to do), strengthens the immune system, improves sleep, increases optimism and happiness, reduces isolation and loneliness, and creates a more generous and helpful mindset (amongst other things). Oh and as an added bonus, this can engender a positive cycle as our help gives others a positive encounter, for which they feel grateful and go to their next encounter with all the benefits too. A pay-it-forward vibe.