Eliminating Stress: Rule 2 – Practice Gratitude

Once upon a time I went though a very difficult time in my life.  I was in the middle of a divorce, forced to sell a home I loved, and left alone in a foreign country with a small child.  I couldn’t get out of bed for the first two weeks.  I was petrified and paralyzed.  But with a small child to care for, I had to somehow pull myself out of it.  So I started taking gratitude walks.  

This is something practiced by a lot of respected motivational leaders from Tony Robbins to Deepak Chopra – because it works!  How does it work? 

Its quite simple.  Take a walk and recite to yourself all of the things you are grateful for in your life.  I actually recite my list out loud – declaring it to the universe!   While you are doing this, be aware of the sights, smells and sounds around you – the falling leaves, the cool breeze, the dog barking. Try your best to block out all of the negative worries floating around in your head and stay in the moment! 

It requires some discipline and focus, particularly if you are engulfed in pain.  I will be honest.  This is the last thing in the world I felt like doing.  I felt stupid talking to myself, and a tub of Ben & Jerry’s on the sofa is so much more appealing to me.  But I forced myself.  I kept walking.  Yes, there were many times I stopped along the way, sank onto the grass and sobbed.  But slowly and gradually  I realized that I was coming back from my walks feeling a little less sorry for myself, a little more focused on my future, and a little more energized.  It creeps up on you, so you just have to keep walking.  

What are you grateful for?

I am grateful for my environment, the wonderful places I am allowed to visit and my home. I am grateful that I have good health and so many physical comforts. I am grateful for the smiles of children, the smell of chocolate chip cookies baking, and things that make me laugh. And above all, I am grateful for my family, friends, and the loving, supportive people in my life. Even when your life looks a bit gloomy, you might be surprised about all the things you have to be grateful for. 

Why does this work to relieve stress?

When we are feeling stressed, it is usually because we are allowing fear or anger to dominate our thoughts. We fear that we aren’t good enough, that we won’t accomplish something.  We fear what might or might not happen in the future.  We are often angry about something that was done, or not done, in the past.  But it is almost impossible to be fearful or angry, when you are feeling genuine gratitude in the present.

And it’s scientifically proven! Robert Emmons, a professor at UC Davis, is one of the world’s leading researchers of gratitude. A study he did proved that practicing gratitude on a daily basis leads to a 25% increase in happiness and a significant boost in energy levels. It also leads to better health, reduced blood pressure and stress-hormone levels. People who practiced gratitude in the study also tended to take better care of themselves, smoking less, exercising more, and getting an extra half hour of sleep on average.

It is interesting to note that the study referred to gratitude as a practice.  We often think of gratitude (and love) as nouns.  We are simply grateful as a state.  We simply love as a state.  But gratitude, like love, has to be actively put into practice in order to feel the real effects.

Lets go out and be actively grateful!

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