Why Practicing Gratitude Is the Secret to Finding Happiness

October 10, 2017

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As I was sitting down to write this blog post, I was simultaneously scrolling through my Facebook feed and stumbled across this beautifully written post by my friend that encapsulates so much of what has been on my heart lately. Kory said, “Being happy is not just a choice- it’s a decision. Aim to be in spite of happy. In spite of the circumstance. In spite of the situation. In spite of it all. Be genuinely, intensely, and consistently happy -regardless of what it looks like to others. Here’s to living your best life.”  

Wow. How beautiful is the Universe for offering us each individual wonderful messages if our hearts are open to receive it? There was no way that I randomly stumbled across that simple, but powerful Facebook post. I knew that I wanted to write about the concept of happiness, or rather the choice to be happy. As someone who has struggled with depression and anxiety, there have been many times where I have lost sight of all the many blessings in my life because my attention is fixated on something negative I’m currently experiencing. Have you ever felt like that? Like, all the beautiful things life has to offer is somehow thrown out the window when something more painful comes your way.

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The truth is blessings never truly leave us in our times of sadness, but rather, they are simply masked by the negative emotions we are giving more of our energy to. Instead, we must deliberately choose to redirect our focus to all that we have, versus all that we lack. In a recent session with my spiritual healer, Jodi, she said that I will feel happier if I develop a mindset of gratitude. The reason being is that if you focus on what you are grateful for, you’ll likely realize that your troubles aren’t as bad as they seem.

Why is this the case? This is because your brain actually interprets gratitude as optimism. Observable in brain scans, optimistic thoughts calm and soothe the amygdala, the part of the brain that sounds the stress alarm. Optimism also lowers the stress hormone cortisol, releases pleasure-inducing neurotransmitters, and activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which is responsible for rest and relaxation.

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Outfit Ingredients: Bell sleeve top- Forever 21 | Jeans- Madewell | Heels- Steve Madden | bag- Louis Vuitton | Watch- Michael Kors


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Another reason to practice gratitude is that consistently practicing gratitude trains the brain to choose positive thoughts. Thoughts and words of gratitude are powerful triggers of optimism. When these thoughts are repeated frequently, the brain connects thoughts and words of gratitude with a sense of well-being. Eventually, new neural pathways are formed, which is what happens with any habitual thought pattern (good or bad). This is a way to harness your knowledge to encourage a positive outcome.

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 Photography by Amanda Fogarty 


Here are a few helpful tips  to get you started:

Try a gratitude notebook.

Get into the habit of everyday writing down a list of the many things you are grateful for. This is so important because even in our most trying times, we still have aspects of our lives to be grateful for. For instance, even if you are struggling financially remind yourself that you are blessed to have food to eat or a warm bed to sleep in. Before you even get out of bed, think of all the things you are thankful for in your life — your loved ones, your home, your job, your body, etc.

It’s the thought that counts.

On a physiological level, the brain does not know the difference between a truth and a lie. So when you have negative thoughts this translates to your whole life experience as seeming negative. Also vice versa, when you think positively you will experience a more positive outlook on life and feel happy. Therefore it is critical that you think positively about yourself and your self-worth.

Spread the love.

Tell others how grateful you are for them, in small ways every day or every week. Each act of gratitude will not only feel good for those on the receiving end, it will flood your brain with good feelings that can have a profound effect on your life.


 

LOVE,

Blog-Signature-Hannah

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