Feb 21, 2019
Mental Health

Healing through Gratitude

Jennifer Dobberfuhl Quinlan, PhD, Program Director & Co-founder
What You'll Learn
Path of Recovery and HealingIt's not joy that makes us gratefulOther resources on gratitude and healing:

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle

Path of Recovery and Healing

When we’re in a path of recovery and healing, abundance might not be on the forefront of our minds. But then again, abundance might be just what we need to think about in our path to recovery and healing. Some would say abundance is our innate tendency to manifest, expand, develop, become more. You could think of abundance like one of many pillars that support a house of recovery.

If gratitude is the foundation for abundance and abundance is a pillar of healing, then gratitude can lead to healing. 

If you’ve heard of negativity bias, you know that humans excel at it - seeing the bad before the good, holding onto insults more than praise, remembering negative experiences more easily than positive ones, etc. For some people this negativity bias consumes them, and for others, it simply leads to some discouragement. Regardless, negativity bias can bring us down - and gratitude can help build us back up!

Research shows that people who focus on what they’re thankful for also report having a more satisfied, happier life. A regular practice of being thankful can impact people in many ways, actually, such as: becoming more optimistic, having more enthusiasm, feeling more pleasure, having hope, and even having fewer or less severe illnesses. Yes, gratitude even affects your physical well-being!

It's not joy that makes us grateful

Brené Brown said, “There is a great quote by a Jesuit priest that says, ‘It's not joy that makes us grateful, it's gratitude that makes us joyful.’ In my 12 years of research on 11,000 pieces of data, I did not interview one person who had described themselves as joyful, who also did not actively practice gratitude.” She points out what joyful people had in common was “a tangible gratitude practice.” Here are some ideas.

Keep a gratitude journal 

  • Write 3 things every day that you’re grateful for (there are lots of gratitude journals on the market that can help you get started).
  • Write once a month more deeply about things you’re grateful for and how that makes you feel.
  • Keep an audio journal on your phone. Make a practice of recording when something happens that makes you feel thankful, right when it happens.
  • When you’re feeling overwhelmed with negativity, revisit your gratitude journal. 

Practice expressing gratitude OUT LOUD

  • Set a time (eg at 1,2,3, and 4 or 12:34 every day) to say out loud something you’re grateful for.
  • Choose someone every day, week, or month that you’ll express your gratitude to. Anyone.
  • Express gratitude in meditation or prayer. Brené talks about the value of saying grace at dinner to orally express gratitude. Consider this practice in group or individual settings.

Contemplate things for which you’re thankful

  • Take a walk and really focus and think about the things you see, smell, or feel. Focus on your senses and the beauty in each of them. 
  • Think about the functioning of your body and enjoy how well your legs work or how nice it is to be able to use your arms to hug someone.
  • Savor something you enjoy; really spend time to take in the moment without outside distraction. 
  • Express gratitude for the gift of moments and experiences you enjoy.

As you practice gratitude in a tangible, intentional, and consistent way, you will find your awareness increases. You will begin to overpower negativity bias. The practice of gratitude leads to joy. It empowers you to acknowledge abundance in your life - spiritual or physical - and connect it to your healing.

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