How 40 Days of Gratitude Changed My Life
Updated: May 31
"The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become" -Robert Holden
My Soul-Nurturing Practice
I work really hard to nurture myself body, mind, and soul. However, I realized recently that I usually only blog about physical health and don't share much about the other two pillars. And yes, your mental and spiritual health are PILLARS and they are just as important as your physical health. :)
When we think about health, we often think about eating well and exercising regularly. While those two things are very important, our overall health goes way beyond just the physical being. Our mind and body are interconnected in ways that science is still researching and figuring out.
Have you ever gotten so stressed that it made you physically ill, or in pain?
Have you ever eaten everything but the kitchen sink as an emotional response to something?
Or maybe, you broke up with a boyfriend/girlfriend and felt so sick you couldn't eat at all for days?
Have you heard stories about people who were told they had 6 months to live, and then they went out and lived the best 6 months that any of us could ever dream of...only to find they were miraculously cured?
These, my friends, are examples of the mind-body connection.
Nurturing your body, mind and soul and keeping a healthy balance between the 3 is vital to living your best life.
No More Giving Up Chocolate For Lent
Let me share where this "40 Days of Gratitude" idea came from. My entire life, I've always given something up for Lent. TBH, it's usually been chocolate. Or junk food. And if I'm being really honest, I usually just chose some kind of food item I wanted to cut out that would help me lose weight because swimsuit season is right around the corner. (*sigh*)
But, last year, I decided I wanted to do something different. Something that would have a lasting impact on my life and others' lives. Instead of giving something up and having a feeling of lack, I wanted to do something and have a feeling of abundance.
That's when I decided to write one letter of gratitude per day. I created a list of 40 people that have had an impact on my life--big or small--and thanked them for, well, being them.
The Incredible Impact of Gratitude on Overall Health and Wellbeing
Want to change your life? Find as many things to be thankful for as you can. Right now, actually- think about 3 things that you are truly grateful for in your life. I'm serious! I'll wait....
...how do you feel? You likely feel a little more at peace thinking about those things. Maybe you even smiled or got butterflies in your stomach.
You see, gratitude literally rewires your brain. It's very difficult to feel angry, sad, annoyed, frustrated or any negative emotions when you live in a constant state of gratitude. There's pioneering research on the effects that gratitude has on the brain.
I came across a study called Counting Blessings Versus Burdens where ill patients were made to a keep a gratitude journal. After 21 days, the results were pretty incredible- the patients who kept gratitude journals felt better about their lives as a whole, got better sleep each night, and a percentage of them reported a reduction in pain.
My 40 Days of Gratitude for Lent
I'd like to preface this by saying that regardless of what your religious or spiritual beliefs are, you can do this exercise. They say it takes 21 days to create a habit, so 40 days will definitely seal the deal!
So, like I said before, I wrote 40 letters in 40 days. Some to people extremely close to me (my parents, my boyfriend) and some to people who probably weren't expecting it (coworkers, distant friends I hadn't spoken to in months/years). It was as simple and as difficult as you can imagine. It takes a while to make it part of your routine, but eventually you'll get to the point where you really look forward to your gratitude practice.
My intention was to spread some love and kindness, but what I soon realized was the impact it had on me. I'm generally a pretty positive person, but I do suffer from anxiety and can be high-strung at times. Implementing this gratitude practice brought me a sense of peace that I've never experienced before in my life. I can only describe it like this- I feel like my brain is always going a million miles an hour, and for the first time in as long as I could remember, I was able to hit the brakes, set on cruise control, take in the scenery and enjoy the drive.
My favorite part about this exercise is that you actually get to experience the joy of gratitude twice- once when you write the letter, and also when the person receives it, totally unexpectedly, and you get a call saying you made their day. It really sparked up some beautiful conversations with people I love dearly.
Gratitude All Year
I invite you to implement a gratitude practice into your life. I can assure you it will have some sort of positive impact on your physical, mental and spiritual health. You don't just have to do it for 40 days, either. Here's a few ways you can get more gratitude in your life all year:
Gratitude Journal: I implemented this after my 40 days, and it's my favorite part of my day. I write down 3 things I'm thankful for each night before bed.
Gratitude Jar: Write down 1 thing you're thankful for each day and put it in a jar. On New Year's Eve, go through and read all the things you were thankful for and reflect on the good year you had.
Monthly Gratitude Letter: My best friend started doing this, and I think it's a great idea! Each month she sends a letter to someone she is grateful for.
Create a Gratitude Routine: This one is great if you are married and/or have children. Make it a daily habit to talk about what you're grateful for at the dinner table or at whatever time your family gathers.
What are you grateful for today?
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