Dr. Debb Oliver
Gratitude is an emotion that has the power to change our lives for the better.
I recently gave a talk to a group of education leaders where I began with gratitude. I held up my hand in a fist and recited 5 things I was grateful for, right then in that moment. Lifting a finger for each expression of gratitude. I then asked them to do the same. Hold up a fist, think or say out loud 5 things they were grateful for – right then, at that moment.
I shielded my eyes from the lights and saw nearly 1400 fists in the air, becoming an open hand. Smiles began to form on the faces of those that I could see. There was a murmur among the audience.
Feel better sooner.
I call this Fist-to-Five. And here are five things I am grateful to know about gratitude!
When we take the time to be grateful for all the good in our lives, we not only feel happier and more content, but we also enjoy a range of mental and physical health benefits.
Gratitude releases happy hormones. When we express gratitude our brain releases serotonin and dopamine. These two hormones make us feel happier inside. -Thus the smiles that grew on their faces!
Interestingly enough, studies have shown that expressing gratitude consistently can lead to improved physical and mental health. Regularly expressing gratitude has also been linked to lower levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress. So the next time you are feeling stressed – think Fist-to-Five! You will actually feel your shoulders lower and your breathing slows down.
Expressing gratitude builds self-esteem!
Feeling a bit low about yourself? Fist-to-Five! Build your self-esteem. Focusing on what you are thankful for rather than what you lack can help build healthy self-esteem and reduce feelings of inferiority or inadequacy. When you take time to appreciate the good in your life, it becomes easier to recognize your unique strengths and accomplishments. Try saying 5 things you are grateful for about yourself – to yourself in the mirror! If you did that just once a day, you would begin to see the real you, the happy you. The productive and energetic you!
Expressing gratitude has been linked to greater mental strength and resilience, enabling people to better cope with challenging life circumstances. Practicing gratitude encourages us to focus on the positive rather than the negative and helps us to develop the strength and confidence needed to face difficult times.
Starting right now, hold up your fist. Name 5 things you are grateful for at this moment. When you are stuck in what seems like a difficult situation, take a moment and Fist-to-Five. Do this if you are feeling a bit stressed or anxious give yourself the opportunity to release the dopamine and serotonin to calm you and help you think more clearly. And by practicing gratitude regularly, you will bring your cortisol levels to a more optimal level.