Author Aly Dort / Category Lifestyle / Published: August 2019
Let’s Start With The Science Behind Gratitude
To celebrate the release of our newest wellness tea, Self Care Elixir, we’re arming you with 5 ways you can practice gratitude while enjoying your cup of tea!
Being thankful on Thanksgiving and taking a few minutes to mindfully practice gratitude is something we’ve all likely done, but how often do you implement the practice into your daily routine? Practicing daily gratitude, as it turns out, is far more than a spiritual practice. It literally changes the structure of your brain!
fMRI studies on the practice of gratitude have found that whilst participants took part in the practice, they experienced greater activity within the brain’s reward pathways as well as the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is a very small part of your brain but it’s an incredibly important one. It’s responsible for the release of hormones, sleep quality, stress management and the regulation of emotion among other crucial functions.
What researchers have found is that practicing daily gratitude increases dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine production in the brain (which makes us feel pretty great!) Making the practice a consistent part of your day helps to strengthen the same neural pathways that release these feel-good chemicals, helping gratitude to become a more automatic response.
Practicing gratitude can feel frivolous at first. Sometimes it even feels uncomfortable. Those feelings are both valid and normal. Humans have a strong tendency to narrow in on the negative, called a Negativity Bias. This is thought to be a survival instinct, developed through evolution. So when you practice daily gratitude, you’re actively challenging pathways that are already fairly strong.
Within the context of our social lives, gratitude is sometimes presented as a dismissive and invalidating solution to struggle. At its core, however, daily gratitude doesn’t intend to dismiss your emotions and experiences. Rather, it asks that you acknowledge the feeling of gratitude in addition to your current reality.
Many Ways To Practice Daily Gratitude
There is a myriad of ways you can implement daily gratitude into your routine. Some of them might seem more uncomfortable than others so I recommend starting with the practice that feels best to you.
The wonderful thing is that the practice encompasses not only feeling gratitude but expressing gratitude as well.
Here are a few great places to start with your practice:
#1. Keep A Gratitude List
How I began my own daily gratitude practice was by keeping a gratitude list. I started with one line for each day and wrote down one thing I felt grateful for before going to bed. As the practice became less uncomfortable for me, I began to keep small daily lists of things I’m grateful for. It’s amazing to watch the lists grow each day and serves as a great reminder that there is so much in our lives that we often forget about.
Alternatively, if you love a good spreadsheet, this one’s for you!
Whether you use paper and a pen, or the notepad on your phone, draw out 3 columns and write “People”, “Things” and “Places” in each of them. Over the next 2 weeks, start recording every thing, person and place that you are grateful for. As you fill the columns, your ability to be mindful of these things will grow, and your lists will flourish. (Not to mention the fact that it’s incredibly satisfying to watch your lists grow!)
#2. Keep A Gratitude Or “Joy” Journal
A friend and micro-influencer, Kayley Reed, recently wrote about the notion of “venting joy” which is another great way to practice gratitude. Writing about your joy (in as much detail as possible) has profound effects on your health and wellness. Not only does this reinforce the pathways leading you to a healthier, happier brain, but you reap the benefits of reliving those moments as you write about them.
#3. Send A Thank You Card Or Letter
Expressing gratitude is beneficial for your wellness and also the wellness of those you’re sharing your gratitude with! When we feel valued, we forge stronger connections and loyalties with those individuals. You could sit down with your favourite wellness tea and write out a few thank you cards, or even just an email expressing gratitude. It doesn’t have to be elaborate, either. Just do what feels good for you at this moment.
#4. Compliment Yourself!
It comes as no surprise that we need to be kinder to ourselves. Starting today, you can begin to repair that relationship with yourself by taking time each day to compliment yourself. Acknowledge your achievements- no matter how small! Did you drink an extra glass of water? Perhaps you learned a new skill. Maybe you took the time to be thoughtful in forming a response to a friend. Notice those little things, because they matter! Collectively, they have a great impact on our growth and resiliency.
Admire Something Beautiful, Like Nature
Mindfulness often goes hand-in-hand with the practice of gratitude and taking the time to admire something beautiful can benefit both practices. You can brew up a cup of our Self Care Elixir and admire the world outside your window. Take a mental note of all of the beautiful views, sounds and colours you notice. You also may want to check out our blog post all about mindfulness exercises you can do while enjoying your favourite wellness tea.
However, you choose to implement daily gratitude into your self-care routine, remember there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. Do what feels good, challenge what feels uncomfortable and be open to growth.
Self Care Elixir
Now I want to take a moment to rave about our newest wellness tea blend, Self Care Elixir. It’s a gorgeous herbal blend of Ayurvedic medicinal herbs like Moringa and Cinnamon. Moringa, similar to Matcha, is made by pulverizing the leaves of a Moringa tree, so that you consume the entire leaf. In addition to it’s many nutritious benefits, moringa has been found to have anxiolytic properties and has demonstrated the potential for helping alleviate depression. It also happens to be flush with antioxidants, which are a girl’s best friend throughout the flu season. My favourite part of this wellness tea? It’s caffeine-free, so you can grab a cup (or two) any time of day.
Aly Dort is a freelance illustrator and stationery designer living in Halifax, N.S. She is passionate about mental health, social sustainability and empowering those around her.