Why is gratitude so important?
Gratitude helps us to move from ‘fight or flight’ into ‘rest and repair’ where we can begin to find healing and wholeness. Emotions directly modulate our immune system and can actually be more important than the degree of dis-ease (Levy & Wise). When we are experiencing stress our body is putting all its energy into ‘survival’, which means that it’s focusing on escaping from threat. When in this state, all your energies are invested in either attack or defence. There is no space for rest, creativity, maintenance or repair. It’s exhausting! It puts a strain on our circulation and digestive systems and has a huge impact on our hormones. In the short term, stress can be beneficial in that it can give us a boost of adrenalin to get us out of a sticky situation, but our bodies are only designed to be in this state for about 10-15 minutes at a time. However, many are now living in a chronic state of stress which can create a toxic and unhealthy environment for our cells and have a negative effect on our wellbeing.
So how does gratitude help?
It raises our vibration and helps to shift our mindset out of fear and worry into hopefulness and abundance. It opens us up to forgiveness, both of others and of Self. This is truly transformative and essential for lasting healing and wellbeing. But I believe it needs to be more than just the simple form of gratitude where we look for the surface things to be thankful for, such as sunshine or a hot cup of coffee to start the day. These things are good, and it’s great to be thankful for them, but they only take us so far. What happens when it’s raining, or when we’re all out of coffee?! I think we need to cultivate a deeper, more ‘radical’ sense of gratitude, one that can bring light into even the darkest of days – one that is raw and real, acknowledging the discomfort of our challenges while also being open to the growth and potential they offer.
How can I practice gratitude in the face of stress, pain and overwhelm?
For me it’s about doing our best to develop what is sometimes referred to as a Beginner’s Mind, that is, bringing a childlike simplicity and freshness to how we look at the world, letting go of the cynicism, scepticism and baggage that we can so often carry as adults and instead viewing everything with openness and curiosity. It’s about putting aside any drama and just exploring the wonder of the world around us: perhaps a leaf, a dandelion seed head, the fact that the sky is blue or the magic of seeing the moon and stars in a clear night sky…
Wayne Dyer says, “When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change”. And Dr Bruce Lipton teaches us that “The moment you change your perspective is the moment you rewrite the chemistry of your body”. So, making time for a practice of gratitude will raise your vibration, helping you to feel better and actually changing your inner environment on an emotional and cellular level. It will open your eyes to new possibilities and potentials. It will boost your immune system and support your body’s inner healing processes, but more than that it will bring back a sense of joy, hope and freedom to your life.
So, if you’re reading this and thinking ‘I want some of that in my life!’ then click here to join me in my W·I·L·D Wisdom Wellbeing group on Facebook and input your email address to sign up for my ‘W·I·L·D Way guide to feeling better – right now!’. I look forward to connecting with you.