Gratitude became a huge part of my life a few years ago after reading many Wayne Dyer Books. I had also read another book all about the dramatic changes that a man experienced after taking the time to write thank you cards to almost everyone in his life.
There is no doubt that the day I began being more grateful for everything and everyone in my life, was the day my minimalist journey officially began. Clearly there is al ink between gratitude and minimalism so let’s talk more about how they go hand in hand and how you can put them both into action.
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A study was done by Indiana University where 43 people suffering with anxiety and depression were used. Half of these people were instructed to write thank you letters of gratitude to people in their lives who had helped them or done something for them. After checking back in 2 weeks later brain scans still showed a heightened activity of gratitude. Even more surprising, that activity was still present 3 months later.
Gratitude in our brains responds in a similar way to sex and chocolate. Expressing gratitude releases those same chemicals in our brains that make us happy. The one big difference I see with gratitude when compared to sex and chocolate is that there is no way gratitude can effect us negatively.
Chocolate in excess could leave you 10 pounds heavier and struggling with other health issues.
Sex in a committed relationship is rewarding and amazing and something to give gratitude for. However, so many people use sex as a temporary band aid that will eventually leave them still feeling wounded and broken.
Gratitude is lasting and will never leave you regretting your choices.
Practicing gratitude can also lead to a decrease in depression and anxiety. In fact, you become more resistant to stress in general when practicing gratitude. You can also fall asleep quicker and have more solid sleep as well.
All these things, as we know, work hand in hand and can greatly improve the quality of our lives.
Minimalism is designed to give the people who practice it a life with more purpose. By clearing away the things in your life, (be it clutter or negativity) that drag you down, minimalism gives you the freedom to rise up.
There are many ways to practice minimalism through decluttering, downsizing or things like capsule wardrobes. Clearing away a lot of these types of clutter can make more room in your time and life.
So how do gratitude and minimalism go hand in hand?
Naturally, it becomes easier to let go of things in our life that no longer serve us when we feel grateful for all the things that do.
Waking up each day and being thankful for the clothes on your back, the roof over your head and the toothbrush in the bathroom can instantly make you less likely to start wishing for a better house, nicer clothes or an electric toothbrush.
The more you practice gratitude in your life the more like you are to succeed with minimalism and downsizing. It makes it so much easier to clearly see the things in your life that you don’t need. You start to gain perspective on the things that have been weighing you down.
I have compiled a list of exercises that you can do daily to help boost your brains natural instinct to give gratitude. Taking time each day to do some or all of these exercises will eventually retrain your brain to be more inclined to send out gratitude.
This idea was introduced to me when I was reading a book about the Dalai Lama called The Art of Happiness. In this book another study is discussed that took place at the University of New Your Buffalo.
This group was asked to complete the sentence “I’m glad I’m not a. . .” After 5 times of this exercise the people involved felt a heightened sense of life satisfaction.
A separate group was asked to finish this sentence: “I wish I were a. . .” After this experiment, the participants felt less satisfied with their lives.
So often we spend our days observing all the things that other people have that we hope to have some day or hope to be someday. Taking time each day to be thankful for what you don’t have (poverty, starvation, lack of water) can help rewire your brain so that you are grateful for your current situation.
Thank you cards are a lost “art” in this day and age. I myself don’t send them nearly as much as I used to.
However, a few years ago (when I really started appreciating gratitude) I sent out thank you cards in place of Holiday cards. I thanked everyone for any thing big or small that they had done for our family that year. It felt amazing.
Normally I stress about the high cost of sending holiday cards. It has always seemed wasteful to me. Sending personalized thank you cards on the other hand, the cost wasn’t of any concern. I wanted all our loved ones to know how grateful we were for them instead of just sending a perfectly Photoshopped photo of us.
You might not have a ton of money piled up in the bank waiting to be given away. Just the idea of it can sound stressful. In cases like this, start small. What can you give. Gently used clothing? Your time? A homemade meal?
When you see or hear of a person who really needs their spirits raised, take a moment to think of something you can do to help, even if it’s not financially.
Little ways to give
This one is probably the easiest one to get yourself started. Before you get out of bed in the morning, take a moment to think of three things to be grateful for.
Make a habit of this, do it every day. We do this with our kids as a form of “prayer.” Before we eat together we each think of one thing to say thank you for.
We are surrounded each day by things that we should be expressing gratitude for. Making it a part of your daily ritual will slowly help to create a habit of it in your life.
Creating this habit will help rewire your brain to be more grateful all the time. Gratitude can truly transform your life and it is as easy as making these small, gradual changes.
Here are some of my top recommended books that teach on gratitude and the influences it can have in your day to day life. I have read all of these and highly recommend them.