By: Elizabeth Wellington
Have you ever heard of the butterfly effect? It’s the idea that even the smallest actions can cause ripples in the world, altering unfolding events. By being kind to a person on a subway or leaving an extra big tip at a diner, we can exponentially impact our own lives and others’ for the better. The same is true for gratitude. I noticed this summer that when I carried a sense of gratitude in my heart, it changed my experience of the world around me, sending ripples through my life.
The depth of my relationships grew. I moved through tasks with ease, and I felt lighter — buoyant even. Gratitude is like a pot simmering on a stove. The longer you keep it there, the richer the taste.
Research shows that feeling and expressing gratitude changes our brains. It carves out a different path for our lives, revealing the beauty in each moment. There’s no one way to practice gratitude. It’s as simple as appreciating your past and present, whether through a journal or even letters of thanks and emails that praise coworkers. Setting this habit in motion can have a restorative impact on your body, mind, and spirit.
Gratitude can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and even help people to sleep better. Plus, people who express thanks make healthier decisions. These grateful folks are less likely to overeat and smoke, instead taking up exercise.
Giving thanks also calms the mind and eases depression, balancing feelings of apathy and disempowerment. Finding meaning in hard situations creates emotional resilience and releases feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin. From a spiritual perspective, regular gratitude also cultivates loving-kindness toward oneself and others. This sense of connectedness underpins our sense of belonging in the world and a connection to those we love.
To truly reap the benefits of gratitude, practice self-reflection in both moments of joy and sorrow. In tough times, look for the silver lining or a small ounce of hope in your situation. Savor happiness when it flows your way too.
Making this personal commitment to enriching your life with gratitude sets you on an abundant path. Studies indicate that even a small shift in perspective is self-perpetuating, having a butterfly effect on your state of being and the world.