Gratitude is probably one of the most commonly shared self-development tools on the planet. It’s relatively simple to implement and the results from practicing gratitude on a regular basis easily compound themselves.
In spite of the fact that I know and have experienced the power of a daily gratitude practice, I find that it is also one that I’m most likely to drop off from, especially when I’m feeling good. Perhaps you feel the same way?
With this upcoming Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States, I thought this would be the perfect time to discuss gratitude more deeply.
Why does Gratitude Work?
The act of identifying things to be grateful for shifts our focus from the negative to the positive. This has a snowball effect. The more positive things you notice, the heavier the snowball becomes, picking up speed as it moves downhill, and more positive things along the way.
The good feelings that accompany our gratitude are calming to our nervous system. These feelings help reduce our stress and move us out of fight or flight and into a parasympathetic state. In this state, we are more readily able to make decisions and stay open to new opportunities. We actually start seeing things that were always there but were too overwhelmed to notice before!
Our good feelings attract more good feelings in our environment. We attract people who are in a similar emotional state. For those who aren’t feeling as good, we become a model of a more regulated nervous system that the people around us subconsciously co-regulate with.
Three Reasons why you might be dropping the ball with Gratitude
- It seems too simple.
In working with my clients, I’ve discovered that many of us have an extreme bias towards hard work. Anything that feels simple or magical creates suspicion within our minds. Our ego likes to be in control and starts to explain away the results we’re seeing, like improved emotions and unexpected gifts (both tangible and intangible).
According to our ego, these results clearly can’t have anything to do with our gratitude practice, therefore, we stop.
- You’ve disconnected with the feeling and are going through the motions.
You are treating your gratitude practice like something to check off your to-do list or something that is a means to an end rather than deeply connecting with the feeling of gratitude and actually taking the time to discover what’s new that you have to be grateful for.
When this happens, not only do you stop seeing results, you get bored. And you stop.
- You have exceeded your personal set point for feeling good.
As Gay Hendricks describes in his book, The Big Leap, we all have a thermostat set for a particular “temperature”. When we start to feel better than this set temperature, our body and nervous system readjusts and recalibrates to keep us at this fixed temperature in order to keep us “safe”.
So if our gratitude practice is what is making us reach higher levels of happiness and success, our subconscious mind will have us stop practicing to restore us to our personal comfort level.
Reinvigorating Your Gratitude Practice
Now that you’ve learned you’ve been subconsciously stopping your gratitude practice from a place of personal protection, you may wonder how you can move past this boundary and experience greater and greater levels of gratitude, happiness, and success.
We have to learn to work with gratitude in a way that gently raises our personal thermostat for feeling good, without triggering our fight or flight responses.
Since fight or flight is a deeply physical experience, our solution must be deeply physical too.
Making your gratitude practice more embodied will help release the trauma response that has been holding you back.
It will help you engage with gratitude in a way that feels more nuanced and fulfilling.
No more boredom!!
One way to do this is to incorporate your voice into your gratitude practice which I described in this January 2023 blog.
The other way involves practicing embodied movement in conjunction with your gratitude.
Now it’s your turn …
Have you fallen off the gratitude practice bandwagon? Take a moment to set an intention for how you will incorporate gratitude back into your life.
Has your gratitude practice become rote? What strategy do you plan to implement to enliven your practice?
As always, I’d love to hear about your ahas and intentions in the comments below.
PS: If you’d like to learn more about how to deepen your gratitude through embodiment, join me for the next Midweek Reset Expanding Your Gratitude through Movement within my private community The Pack next Wednesday November 15th at 3pm EST.
If you aren’t yet a member, enter your email here to join us. (There will also be a replay posted in the community if you can’t make it live.)