When ‘thank you’ means so muchI remember consciously starting to practise gratitude as part of my spiritual practice years ago. Every morning and night – and then continuously throughout the day – I’d silently give thanks for things. My thank you list included all manner of things, such as a safe home, the ability to buy food, a beautiful sunset, good health, etc, and I noticed three things: first, the more I gave thanks, the more I found to be grateful for; second, I was feeling happier in myself, although nothing drastic had changed; and third, even if I’d had a difficult day or experience and wasn’t feeling great – say I was angry or fearful about something – as soon as I started to give thanks I’d immediately feel calmer and happier.

My take on it was practical and spiritual. On the practical side, as I was conscious about the practice, I was focused and recognized more to be grateful for. On the spiritual side, the Universe responded to my gratitude and gave me more to be thankful for. I had created a positive spiral of focusing on what I had – and wanted – which made me feel better.I had no clue about the science behind the practice of gratitude until much later. I wasn’t surprised to learn that scientists have proven that practising gratitude affects the brain biologically.

Gratitude boosts the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin. Dopamine affects the brain’s pleasure centres and is responsible for feelings related to love, joy, pleasure, reward and motivation. Serotonin helps to regulate mood, irritability, impulse, obsession and memory.

A lack of dopamine and serotonin can lead to many unpleasant states, including depression, insomnia and paranoia. Anti-depressants are used to increase dopamine and/or serotonin. Practising gratitude is a powerful habit that can enhance well-being and bring about a positive shift in mindset.
Here are five steps to incorporate gratitude into your daily life:

1. Set aside dedicated timeAllocate a specific time each day to focus on gratitude. It could be in the morning, before bed, or during a break. Creating a routine helps make gratitude a consistent practice.

2. Reflect on blessingsTake a moment to reflect on the things you are grateful for. It can be as simple as a beautiful sunset, a supportive friend, or necessities like food and shelter. Write them down in a gratitude journal or mentally acknowledge them.

3. Express appreciationTake the time to express your gratitude to others. Write a thank-you note, offer a sincere compliment, or say “thank you” to someone who has positively impacted your life. Sharing your appreciation not only uplifts others but also reinforces your gratitude.

4. Shift focus to the positiveThroughout the day, consciously redirect your attention to the positive aspects of your experiences. Instead of dwelling on what went wrong, identify what went well or what you learned from challenging situations. Train your mind to notice and appreciate the good.

5. Practice mindfulness Engage in mindfulness exercises, such as deep breathing or meditation, to cultivate present-moment awareness. In this state of heightened awareness, you can intentionally focus on the blessings in your life and fully appreciate them.Remember, practising gratitude is an ongoing journey. By incorporating these steps into your daily routine, you can gradually cultivate a mindset of gratitude and experience its positive effects on your overall well-being.

I came up with my gratitude mantra, which I use every time I experience something I particularly like. I say, ‘más y major, gracias y por favor’. It rhymes in Spanish and translates as ‘more and better, thanks and please’. I’m always delighted when I feel such a deep sense of gratitude that I’m moved to use my mantra, as it’s those times I know I’m truly in the flow, which is an upward spiral.So on a note of gratitude, thanks for reading!