Okay, time to admit it: I used to kind of hate the idea of gratitude practice. There was a phase last year where people would hashtag things they’re grateful for each day, and I would sit in my bitter little shell thinking how insincere it came across to be blurting it all over the internet. The issue definitely lay with me.
When I first stepped into my spiritual practices and learning about the law of attraction, I started to read everywhere about gratefulness. Anyone and everyone would encourage you to practice it. In every workbook, course and podcast I went through, someone would encourage some kind of gratefulness. And so I started practising too.
I was right, it did feel a little insincere at first. I’d come home from a super stressful day and wax lyrical about how grateful I was for my mashed potato and cuddle with Daisy. But lo and behold – it worked. Very quickly with daily practice, I started finding more and more in my life that I had to be grateful for. Within a few weeks, I’d landed a really cool partnership with a brand I loved and won £200 on the lottery just as I was about to hit rock bottom of my bank account. Was this a miracle? Was I suddenly the master manifester I’d been hearing all about?
Well, kind of, yes.
If this is all a little out there for you, do stick with me. We’re going to get to the science shortly.
Truthfully, I still get The Fear when I talk about spirituality. Whenever people ask about my Astro tattoos at work I feel a twang of judgement when I explain that my natal chart is laced up my arms, or when I reach into my pocket for change and pull out a crystal I have a moment of panic. I rarely talk about actual spiritual practice here on the blog for fear it won’t be palatable, or that people will assume we’re talking all Godly (I’m not, but that’s a whole other blog post). But, it is what it is and so here we are.
If science is more your thing, let’s get right into it.
To be grateful is to find the positives in life, to seek lessons in resistance and to be thankful for all you have from an entirely personal perspective.
So here’s the thing: regular gratefulness practice rewires your brain. Still to out there? Let me explain.
As someone who has come from a very anxious, negative background, I used to get a lot of intrusive thoughts. I’d be plagued by my own mind telling me I wasn’t good enough, I couldn’t do whatever the task at hand was, that I was being judged, that something terrible was going to happen, that people were out to get me.
This created its own feedback loop – and I reinforced it for years. As Louise Hay said, “It is only a thought, and a thought can always be changed”. It was a bit of a chicken or the egg scenario though – was I anxious because I had bad thoughts or were my bad thoughts because I was anxious?
When you have a thought, that’s all it is and ever will be. But it creates a feeling – chemicals release, your body reacts and you may find your heart beat faster or your stomach drop. Thoughts create feelings, which create reactions.
So where does gratefulness come in?
Gratefulness for me was a tool that I started to use to straight up block my own shitty thinking. Practising gratefulness would put a clean stop to whatever cycle was happening and change the direction.
So what happens when you’re grateful?
When you change this and switch to a ~higher vibe~ feedback loop, you’re stimulating the parts of your brain responsible for happy thoughts and feelings. Dopamine & Serotonin is released.
Much like one of Pavlov’s dogs, if you practice doing this often, you get addicted to that dopamine release. Doing this makes you feel damn good.
And like anyone addicted to dopamine/serotonin/all the other happy chemicals in your brain, you start to seek out that which is going to release it. Sure, some days you might just be grateful for fries, but you start to seek out more things to be grateful for as a result. The practice of noticing the positive, happy things in your life can start to rewire your brain to focus on the positive instead of the negative because it feels bloody good to do it. You’ll start striving for better things to happen.
Will it cure your ills overnight? Well, no, because that’s not how the brain or the universe, or whatever you believe in really works.
Over time though, stimulating yourself to be more grateful can reduce your stress levels, help you sleep better (I talked about this here), and reduce the cycle of negative/anxious thinking. Your brain cannot focus on both fully, at any one time, so by practising you are actively choosing to switch the direction your brain is thinking in. Even on your worst days, practising gratefulness can reset you to neutral, and give you a chance to start afresh.
And how does this work for the law of attraction?
This is a whole other blog post in itself, but if you’re interested in the law of attraction you’ll know that putting out positive vibes will bring them back to you just as quickly. It’s how your good days get better and better and your bad days spiral worse. If you’re interested in a whole post about my studies for the LOA though, do let me know! I’ve been thinking of writing about it for a while now.
Do you practice Gratefulness already? Or would you consider starting?