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Practicing Gratitude

One of the most powerful new habits I have brought into my life this past year is the daily practice of “Gratitude.”

As many of you know, having a regular gratitude practice is one of the most effective ways to improve your emotional and mental wellbeing. Scientific research shows that it can boost our happiness levels by up to 25%.

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend,” says best selling author Melody Beattie.

Studies have shown that keeping a daily gratitude journal leads to not just an increased sense of well-being but also to better sleep, willingness to accept change and it even helps lower the symptoms of physical pain.

There is a small part of your brain called the reticular activation system (RAS) that turns on and off your perception of ideas and thoughts. It determines the lenses through which you look at the world. The RAS is like the dial on an old-fashioned radio that would tune in the station you wish to listen to – Jack Benny, Beethoven or the Arthur Godfrey Show. As you practice “tuning in” to your daily feelings of gratitude, it encourages your RAS to begin pointing out and engaging in activities that will make your day better, building new pathways in your brain that allow you to “see” what your can do to improve your wellbeing. Gratitude practice also stimulates another part of the brain that is associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine – the “do it again” chemical, which is responsible for the creation of new learning pathways.

With gratitude comes happiness and with happiness comes more gratitude. It is like living in a natural state of grace…

I researched gratitude journals online and eventually purchased a copy of  “The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal.” It begins my day with a beautiful quote, then I follow by answering 5 questions that I think about before I start my day and at the end of each day:

  1. I am grateful for…
  2. What would make today great?
  3. Daily affirmations. I am…
  4. Three amazing things that happened today…
  5. How could I have made today better?

“Be thankful for what you have and you will end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough,” explains Oprah Winfrey.

The smallest efforts can make the biggest changes in your life. Just asking and answering these 5 questions daily has brought such peace, joy, celebration and grace into my life and it can bring these benefits into your life as well!

I hope each day you will think about 5 things that you’re grateful for and that this simple practice of gratitude empowers you have a wonderful summer!

Bright Blessings,
Dr. Melissa

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