The Best Gratitude Practice

Tis the Season to embrace Gratitude

It's the holiday season and with that, we hear a lot about both gratitude and a gratitude practice.  I have incorporated a gratitude practice into my own routine and thought it was time to look a deeper into the science and effectiveness of my gratitude practice protocol.

Much to my dismay, it turns out that while nice, my daily list/thoughts of things I'm grateful for isn't all that effective.  I've chosen to share what I've learned in reflecting over my approach to gratitude in order to perhaps prompt you to try something a little different.

I hope you try it.  What's the worst thing that can happen?

-Sarah Cotterill, Founder

Things to be grateful for

Some simple but powerful gratitude ideas

Why Gratitude?

But first, why gratitude?  There is a wealth of data showing that an effective gratitude practice can have great impact on both mental and physical health.  It impacts things like cardiovascular health, relationships,  and physical and cognitive performance - in a large way.

Benefits of a regular gratitude practice include:

  • Long-lasting impact on subjective welling (happiness, meaning, joy, awe)
  • Resilience to trauma - both reframing prior traumatic experience and protecting against future traumas
  • Enhanced social relationships - not just for the giver/receiver, but also for relationships across the board (family, romantic, friends, school, work, and self!)
  • Rewiring the nervous system to be calmer and more responsive, as needed
  • Shifting from leaning toward an unhappy/defensive approach to a happier, more prosocial mindset
  • Reduction in inflammatory markers
  • Decreased fear & anxiety
  • Increased motivation & joy

To some, gratitude can seem "woo, woo" or weak.  Turns out it is on par with HIIT training and is a potent way to steer mental and physical health in a positive direction with long-lasting effects.

Ineffective Gratitude Practice

Now, as I mentioned, my practice of counting my blessings and making a list of things I'm grateful for turns out to not be the most effective way to experience all the benefits of gratitude and really change my overall state.  It's not doesn’t hurt, it just doesn't help that much even -  even when I couple the daily list with of 5 things I'm grateful with really thinking and feeling into them.  The list approach doesn’t shift the body and brain circuits toward enhanced activation.

Now for the important part...

Effective Gratitude Practice

So if the commonly promoted listing making doesn't constitute an effective gratitude practice, what does?  It's all about receiving gratitude, not giving it.  And while it might not be practical for us to all sit around and wait to receive genuine gratitude, the good news is that there is an easy and fun way to incorporate impactful practice into your routine.

Here's what a best practice gratitude protocol looks like:

  1. Think of a situation when you genuinely received gratitude. When someone expressed their sincere thanks to you.  (Alternatively, a story or experience you had when you watched two people give and receive this type of thanks).
    • It is important that your practice be grounded in a story; that you know what the story was and  what the gratitude references back to
  2. After you have established your story - write down at least 3-4 reminders or cues
    • What state were you (or the other person) in before receiving thanks?
    • What state were you (or the other person) in after receiving thanks?
    • Other elements that lend emotional context/tone?
  3. Each time you practice, read/recall these points and the story to cue the nervous system
    • It is important that it is the same/a familiar story
  4. For one, two, or five minutes sit with the feeling of this story and the genuine experience of receiving thanks
  1. Repeat three times per week (or more) at any time of the day

Face of gratitude

This short practice has out-sized positive effects and is really about changing the state of the mind and body.  Once you create this experience and recall it regularly, you shortcut into the gratitude networks in your brain and activation becomes almost instantaneous.

The gratitude story can result in noticeable and real shifts in heart rate and breathing and benefits to not just brain circuits for more prosocial behavior but also benefits to the organs of the body including the heart and lungs.  You may begin to notice a more relaxed state and increased sense of awe and joy.

An effective gratitude practice also down-regulates anxiety and fear and up-regulates positive, feel-good emotions and motivation.  It reduces the inflammatory cytokines that cause systemic stress in our immune system.  You don't want inflammation to be too high or for too long and gratitude has significant effects in the reduction of inflammation

All this being said, you can't lie to yourself and tell yourself you are grateful for something you hate and still derive the benefit of a gratitude practice.  Your story and feelings must be genuine.

Next Level Gratitude

There may be times when you want to further enhance your gratitude practice.  Perhaps you want to spend more time in gratitude or experience even higher levels of gratitude.  To do so, consider adding to your practice compounds that interact with the serotonin pathways and thus amplify states of comfort and pleasure in your immediate sphere.

These compounds could include 5-HTP (which can disrupt sleep architecture cycles in some people), kanna, or a Shift Delta 8 chocolate.

Give 'Receiving' Gratitude A Try

A gratitude practice is an immensely powerful tool for any and all of us.  While not new, we now have the benefit of additional science to guide us in furthering using and measuring its benefits with this simple, effective protocol.

If you give gratitude away and also believe you are entitled to receive it, you create a virtuous energy cycle that will attract all kinds of wonders into your life, big and small.  However, whatever shows up, don't judge it.  Just accept it!  Remember, the value in life is in the journey.

Give it a try and let us know how the practice of receiving gratitude shifts your state of wellbeing.  And in case no one told you today - we at Shift want you to know that you're doing great, we believe in you, you've got this, and we appreciate the opportunity to serve you and experience life with you.

Try a little Shift Chocolate to help kickstart the process.  Buy an extra order to share with someone.  You'll be glad you did.  We'll reward your efforts with 20% off your order.  Just use the discount code 'thankful'


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