Often when we think of habits, we tend to focus on the things that we deem to be 'bad' habits, activities that we do all the time that are often detrimental to our health on some level, such as drinking too much alcohol, eating too much sugar, slouching, staying up late at night.
However, we live a world where there is both light and dark; a world of opposites, a world of balance. So where you may view bad habits as dark, you want to balance them with their opposite, good habits, which bring light and health to your life.
Before you can decide which habits are dark (or 'bad') and which are light (or good), it's important to understand what a habit actually is.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, a habit is "an acquired mode of behaviour that has become nearly or completely involuntary". In other words, a habit is something that you repeat so often that it becomes a part of your very makeup and you do it almost without realising it.
So why should you wish to create a (good) habit of gratitude?
Well, good habits are essential to our health. They gradually bring about a change in our life which will positively impact our health on some level.
If you think of someone who practices gratitude on a daily basis, where gratitude is a natural part of their life, a good habit that they practise both on a conscious level (eg through writing in a gratitude journal) and on a subconscious level (eg through seeing the positive in every situation), how will gratitude impact their life?
There are a number of ways gratitude can impact your life when it becomes an everyday habit:
From a mental perspective:
- Improves your mental health and reduces anxiety and depression - gratitude trains your brain to seek out and find the positive in every situation. When you can find the positive in the most challenging of situations, you'll naturally reduce your anxiety and depression levels because anxiety and depression only survive where there is worry and darkness. If you seek out the positive and the light, worry and darkness don't get a look-in and so anxiety and depression naturally dissipate.
- Reduces stress and burnout - stress comes from worry which increases anxiety. And burnout results from feelings such as overwhelm and a sense of lack of control and support. Gratitude trains your brain to seek out the postive in every situation, even the most challenging, and, so, you can find a light at the end of every tunnel.
- Increases optimism - when you seek out the positive in every situation, you're training your brain, and yourself, to shine a more optimistic light on everything. When you approach life with greater optimism, you do so with less anxiety, stress, and darker emotions, and you radically reduce any feelings of overwhelm because, through optimism, you're open to finding a way around every obstacle that stands in your path.
- Increases self-esteem - when you view life in a positive light, when you're optimistic about life and the future, you'll notice that you change as a person; your enjoy life more, you feel more confident about yourself and life, and, as a result, your self-esteem increases.
From a physical perspective:
- Better sleep - when you're grateful for your life, when you know you can and will find a way round any obstacle that may be placed on your path, when you free yourself from worry, stress and anxiety, your body and mind become naturally more relaxed. And when your body and, in particular, your mind become more relaxed, you'll enjoy better sleep, more sleep, deeper sleep, rejuvenating sleep.
- Better physical health - when we're constantly stressed or feeling anxious, our body is in a constant 'fight or flight' mode with adrenalin coursing through our veins. Our heart beat, blood pressure and breathing increase, getting ready to flee. When we remain in fight or flight mode over a period of time, when we feel under constant stress and anxiety, it negatively impacts our immune system because stress reduces the number of white blood cells that are needed for a healthy immune system. And when our immune system reduces, we find that inflammation rises. When gratitude is part of our being, a habit that we perform both consciously and subconsciously, it will cancel the fight or flight sensation and have a positive impact on our physical health because our heart beat, blood pressure, breathing return to normal, our white blood cells remain at a constant healthy level thus improving the immune system and keeping imflammation at bay.
From an emotional perspective:
- Improved relationships - with gratitude as part of our life, comes optimism. And someone who is optimistic, who laughs, who enjoys life without worrying about what's round the next corner, is a much more pleasant person to be around. And when someone is more pleasant to be around, their relationships will flourish, people will want to be with them. Because when you live your life in a way where gratitude, optimism, joy, happiness is your natural state, you're riasing your vibrational energy and most people are attracted to someone who radiates at a higher vibration.
- Cope better with adversity - a person who is grateful for everything in their life, who seeks out the positive in every situation, that person will better cope with challenges when they come around. Rather than viewing a challenge as something life has thrown at them or something that is designed to keep them small, they'll embrace the challenge because they seek out the positive in every situation. So a person with gratitude in their heart will welcome challenges as an opportunity to grow, to change, to learn. And, in so doing, they naturally cope better with any challenge placed on their path.
- Fosters hope for the future - when you train your brain to find the positive in every situation, you remove lower emotions such as fear, worry, anxiety. Such lower emotions tend to be future-driven, but future-driven in a negative way where you dread the onset of a future. When you look to the future from a negative perspective, you can only see darkness. You cannot see the joys that the future may hold. When, through gratitude, you find the positive in every situation, you no longer fear or worry about the future because, no matter what may come your way, you know you'll find the positive in it.
From a spiritual perspective:
- Raises your vibrational energy - everything is energy, even our emotions. Emotions that are negative-based, such as worry, anxiety, fear carry with them a heaviness. Whereas emotions such as love, joy, happiness carry a light vibrational energy. As gratitude encourages our emotions to move towards those that are lighter, our whole vibrational energy will rise and become lighter. And when our vibrational energy is high and light, it is much easier for us to connect in with other higher vibrational energies such as our spirit guides, the angels, the Divine, and loved ones who've crossed over.
- Opens your heart - just as worry, fear, anxiety and all negative emotions tend to be heavy, they are also emotions that are associated with the mind. In contrast ligter, higher emotions such as gratitude, as heart-based emotions. And when you move from a mind-based focus to heart-based living, your heart strengthens and opens. And when you have an open-heart you are open to receive more goodness in life.
- Removes comparisonitis - comparisonitis is a bit of a strange dis-ease that has taken hold of so many people over recent years. It happens most when you're not happy with your life, when you feel you're not good enough, when you believe others are better. As gratitude raises your self-esteem, brings happiness into your life, and highlights just how much abundance you have in your life, comparisonitis naturally fades into the background. Because your focus turns inward towards the abundance in your life and turns away from desiring the abundance you perceive outside of you and in the lives of others.
- Creates a sense of humility - am I saving the best reason for creating gratitude as a habit to the last? Many people live their life wanting; wanting something better, wanting something greater... And when they do achieve any goal in life, they are so quick to move onto the next and the next and the next that they fail to recognise just how much they have and have achieved in their life. Gratitude teaches us happiness and joy in everything in life, from the biggest goal to the smallest step taken towards that goal. It encourages a more present-moment, mindfulness way of living. And when you can see even the smallest step, even the smallest miracle in your life, your life suddenly becomes so full that you no longer crave for more, for greater, for bigger. It brings with it a sense of humility.
When we think of good habits, we think of habits, routines that we do both consciously and subconsciously, and the more good habits we can create in our life to counterbalance the not-so-good habits (which we all have) the better our health will become. In turn, the more we reap the benefits of good habits, the less we'll feel drawn to the 'bad' habits because 'bad' habits, by their very nature, don't tend to support our health.
As we've seen above, gratitude can positively impact our life on every level: mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual. And that's why we should create a habit of gratitude.