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Living In Gratitude: Gratitude Literally Alters Our Heart & Brain

An article authored by Arjun Walla shared some interesting scientific information backing what we always knew: gratitude literally impacts us on a molecular level.

According to the article, scientists have discovered that feelings of gratitude can actually change your heart and brain. Feeling gratitude can also be a great tool for overcoming depression and anxiety. Furthermore, scientists have discovered that the heart sends signals to the brain.

There are those people with seemingly very little who are overwhelmed with gratitude for a warm meal, rudimentary shelter, or some used clothing while so many of us who have all so much are always in search of more things to make us happy and fulfilled rather than appreciating what we have.

In a world where emotional intelligence isn’t really taught in school and the importance is put on striving for high grades, it’s no wonder so many people have difficulty feeling grateful. This is especially understandable if you’ve been brought up in the western world, which is full of consumerism and competition, a world where we’re constantly made to feel we are lacking so we need to strive for more.

Says Walla, happiness is a matter of perspective, and in a world where we are constantly made to feel like we are lacking and always ‘wanting’ more, it can be difficult to achieve or experience actual happiness. Many of us are always looking toward external factors to experience joy and happiness when really it’s all related to internal work. This is something science is just starting to grasp as well, as shown by research coming out of UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center (MARC).

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Living In Gratitude: Vulnerability

Vulnerability is defined as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.” And many of us have been taught to believe that being vulnerable is a sign of weakness. To protect ourselves against the perils of vulnerability, we employ emotional armor, which guards us against shame, hurt, scarcity, fear, and anxiety.  

But in her book, Daring Greatly, Brené Brown explains that vulnerability is a sign of courage and serves as the “birthplace of love, belonging, and joy.”

Yes, being vulnerable is scary and yes, we’re open to being hurt, but can you imagine your life without loving or being loved?” asks Brown.

The very nature of love means opening ourselves to being vulnerable. With love comes the potential for hurt, grief, and loss. But a life without love is lonely, empty, and unfulfilling so we take the risk to love and be loved.

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Living In Gratitude: Daily Intentions

Our intention creates reality. – Wayne Dyer

Studies have proven that happy, successful individuals have a set routine and habits that keep them focused. One of these practices is taking time time each morning to set a daily intention.

This helps alleviate stress, creating an inner peace and assuredness that provides a fresh perspective. An intention is simply a promise you make to yourself. Setting aside time to contemplate your purpose for the day ahead allows for the opportunity to collect your thoughts and make a commitment regarding what you want to achieve as well as your attitude and behavior. This positive intention can involve your health and wellbeing, self-care, your career, education, hobbies, social activities, family time. 

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Living In Gratitude: Finding Joy

As a society, our primary focus is on achievement and success. The pressure to perform and the heightened expectation of success is a burden that weighs us down, decreasing our enthusiasm and robbing us of the ability to experience joy. 

An accomplished life frequently equates to our career. But there is so much more to life than work. When we define our life’s purpose solely on our level of success in our jobs, this can leave us feeling devoid of joy.

In her book, “Joyful,” Ingrid Fetell Lee reveals how important it is to nurture joy in our lives.

Joy is all about feeling good in the moment. Kindled by our five senses, joy is what we feel when we watch puppies playing, hear the belly laugh of a baby, see the stunning beauty of a rainbow, or are immersed in the rich serene colors of a sunset.

Fetell Lee explains that as a culture, we are so obsessed with the pursuit of long-term happiness that we lose sight of finding moments of joy. In our quest for happiness, we are looking to achieve a permanent state being, something that is not realistic or attainable. That’s why it is so important that we seek out those moments of joy to refuel our spirit. 

The practicality of day-to-day life coupled with an expectation of success erases joy. Yet, joy is a significant aspect of our innate reward system. We can instantly boost our mood and motivation by seeking out joyous experiences.

There are things that have been proven to universally ignite joy: things that are bursting with color, round shapes, symmetry, and abundance. 

Color is life because a world without it is dead.” – Inrid Fetell Lee

Joy helps bring about the very best of who we are. Each moment of joy may be fleeting but they add up over time, filling our “bucket,” making us smile, giving us those warm fuzzies, motivating us to be our best selves.

Go through each day with an intent to seek out things that bring you joy. Maybe it’s how the morning sunlight glints off your cat’s vivid green eyes or how loved you feel when your partner or child wraps you in a hug. It could be the cool breeze across your skin on a warm afternoon or the smell of your favorite food. Those are the places where joy hides.

Yes, success and achievement are important but finding joy benefits all areas of our lives. Joy motivates and inspires. Joy opens us up to possibilities, helps us be better people, and enables us to connect with others. 

Go ahead. Find the things that bring you joy. Grab onto those moments. Embrace them. Let them fill you up with pure exuberance. 

May your day be filled with gratitude, joy, and good things.

Living In Gratitude: Breaking The Complaining Habit

You can complain because roses have thorns or you can rejoice because thorns have roses. ~Ziggy

Studies have shown that a good majority of us complain once each minute during a conversation. Why do we engage in this behavior so frequently?

Because it feels good. But just because it feels good doesn’t mean it is good for us.

In fact, research shows that complaining is damaging to our health.

 

Any time we repeat a behavior, it becomes easier and easier. This is true of things that are good for us as well as bad.  Just as paths in a meadow that are traveled frequently become more defined, so do the cognitive pathways that we exercise become more enduring. When we continually complain, our brain rewires itself by building neurological information bridges. As we complain more and more, these bridges become more distinct, resulting in this negative pattern developing into a default behavior. Read more

Living In Gratitude: How To Live A Fulfilled Life

Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life. ~Jack Canfield

After Steve Jobs passed away from pancreatic cancer in October 2011, there was a story circulating online that claimed to recount his final words. Though this enumeration has proven to be false, the thoughts and advice offered in Job’s fake personal eulogy offer food for thought about how to live a successful and fulfilled life. Even though he knew they were not true, Jobs’ “last words” inspired friend and billionaire Richard Branson, who posted them on his blog.

In a nutshell:

True inner happiness does not come from the material things of this world. What makes our hearts full and our lives meaningful is love, joyfulness, wonderment, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

As we grow older, and hopefully wiser, we begin to understand that, whether we are wearing a $300 or $30 watch, they both tell the same time.

If the car we drive costs $150,000 or $30,000, we still travel the same roads and arrive at the same destination.  Read more

Living in Gratitude: Iroquois Prayer of Thanks

We return thanks to our mother, the earth,

which sustains us.

We return thanks to the rivers and streams,

which supply us with water.

We return thanks to all herbs,

which furnish medicines for the cure of our diseases.

137 the only prayer you say in your whole life is

We return thanks to the moon and stars,

which have given to us their light when the sun was gone.

We return thanks to the sun,

that has looked upon the earth with a beneficent eye.

Lastly, we return thanks to the Great Spirit,

in Whom is embodied all goodness,

and Who directs all things for the good of Her children.

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Living In Gratitude: Our Past Is Perfect

We’ve all made mistakes or failed at something. Most likely, quite a few things.  While some people allow these perceived failures to become roadblocks, preventing them from achieving success or moving forward in life, “Chicken Soup for the Soul” co-creator Jack Canfield believes we should look at these ‘missteps’ in a different light.

As written in his book, The Success Principles, “your past has actually been ‘perfect,’ because it has all led to this marked moment in your life, when you are on the verge of gaining more knowledge.”  This concept of a “perfect” past applies to each and every one of us because we’ve always done the best we could with what we knew at the time. Even when we’ve made mistakes. Read more

Living In Gratitude: Healthy Heart

Gratitude makes us happy, healthy, wealthy and whole.

A positive mental attitude is good for your heart. It fends off depression, stress and anxiety, which can increase the risk of heart disease, says Paul Mills, a professor of family medicine and public health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine. Mills specializes in disease processes and has been researching behavior and heart health for decades. He wondered if the very specific feeling of gratitude made a difference, too. Read more

Living In Gratitude: What Makes You Thankful

It’s not what you have in your pocket that makes you thankful, but what you have in your heart.

Often, we look at the things we possess in order to gauge our gratitude. Of course, we should appreciate these material things – our home that provides shelter, our car that easily gets us places we need to go, the clothing that keeps us warm. Read more