From an early age we have been told to count our blessings.  To be thankful for what we have.  To be grateful for what we are given.  Maybe your parents told you that there were “kids starving in Africa” when you didn’t want to eat what was on your plate.  I know it sounds crazy, but that’s really a statement of teaching gratitude.

Gratitude helps us put things into perspective.

It becomes a silver lining.

We all go through the seasons of life.  Some seasons are filled with joy and happiness.  Others are filled with stress and anxiety.  But regardless of what season we are in, our mindset controls how we will show up in the moment.

Thinking of what we are grateful for literally changes how our brains and bodies function.  Everything is tied together.  Our thoughts will influence our feelings.  Our feelings will influence our hormones.  And our hormones will influence our physiology.

I don’t want to dive too deep into the neuroscience here, but trust me, your thoughts are powerful things.

So, when we think about what we are grateful for, it starts a chain reaction in our brain.  Therefore, a mindset of gratitude can influence the parts of the brain involved in reward, positive social interactions, and empathy.

Gratitude can build a buffer that will help you cope with difficult times.  The research has shown that it will lower the feelings of stress and anxiety.

This is why gratitude works as an antidepressant.  As I mentioned about with our feelings, gratitude will trigger the release of neurochemicals in the brain.  Dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin all will have a calming and positive effect on our bodies.

This doesn’t mean that if we think happy thoughts everything will be rainbows and unicorns.

Difficult situations are part of life.  Gratitude just helps us work through those times without feeling as stressed, overwhelmed, and frustrated as we may otherwise feel.

As a bonus, gratitude can also help us be more successful.

The field of positive psychology has found that our brains work best when they are in a positive and optimistic state.  Yes, we become more successful in all walks of life when we are happier and more positive.  If you want to dive deeper into this, I recommend you read the book The Happiness Advantage by Shawn Anchor.  Shawn is known as the “happiness guy” and he explains in detail the WHY behind the connection between happiness and success.

So what next?

I recommend bookending you day with gratitude.  Start you day with as little as 5 minutes thinking of what you are grateful for.  Every morning I have an alarm on my phone go off at 6am that says, “Think of 5 things you are grateful for.”  It’s my cue to stop and make gratitude a priority.  It doesn’t matter if I woke up feeling like a million bucks or on the wrong side of the bed.  There is so much I am thankful for.

And then at night end your day with gratitude.  Think of 3 good things, no matter how small, that happened today.  What this does is it causes your brain to scan for information and actively seek out positivity in your life.

And consistency is key.

The more consistent you are in thinking about gratitude, the more powerful it becomes.  Just like having a salad instead of a cheeseburger won’t make a big impact on your health.  Or setting aside 10% of your paycheck one month won’t make you financially free.  One day of gratitude won’t have a dramatic change on your mindset.

But stick with it.

The compound effect reminds us that our outcomes lag our actions.  The seeds we plant today will become the flowers of tomorrow.

To your health,