“You have given me a gift such as I have never even dreamt of finding in this life.” – Franz Kafka
How does it feel to be appreciated? To be thanked? To have someone be truly grateful for who you are or what you’ve done? Well, it turns out that you can get that same warm and fuzzy feeling when you express your gratitude toward someone or something in your life.
A growing body of evidence shows that the emotional effects of saying “thank you” are biologically rooted in our bodies. Both the acts of expressing and receiving appreciation lift our oxytocin levels, which can have the same effect as receiving love or a warm hug. In fact, oxytocin has been referred to as the “cuddle chemical” and the “bliss hormone.”
Without intervention, the human brain has a bias toward the negative. It’s a practical matter of self-preservation. Yet focusing on problems can lead to stress, frustration and even depression.
Just as in yoga we practice to create space in our bodies, minds and hearts, we need to make space in our lives for gratitude. Gratitude is an attitude that should be practiced and exercised for it to take root. Even on bad days. “By living the gratitude that we do not necessarily feel, we can begin to feel the gratitude that we live," says Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California at Davis.
There are many ways of cultivating gratitude. Start small. Say thank you. Smile at the checkout clerk. Include a statement of gratitude in your meditation practice. Keep a gratitude journal. Perform a random act of kindness. Find something every day to be grateful for. And perhaps, very soon, you’ll come to see why giving thanks is the gift that keeps on giving.
Thanks for reading!