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The Amazing Power of Micro-Gratitude

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The Healing Power of GratitudeBy Linda Gabriel

When I was in my early 20’s I often suffered from depression. I remember a dark time when nothing seemed to be going right. It was a gloomy day and my mood matched the weather.  I was out of money, my relationship wasn’t going well, and my self-esteem was suffering because I was sure I was too fat. (I wasn’t.) A typical student, I was living on coffee, eating poorly and not getting enough rest, none of which helped my mood.

I was a sophomore at UCLA, a great school, but a big and very impersonal campus with more than 30,000 students. I felt lost and anonymous. I had just finished sitting through yet another lecture in a class with 200 other students, none of whom I knew.   I was young and couldn’t imagine anything ever getting better. As I walked to my car I kept thinking, “What’s the point?”  It’s difficult for me to admit this today, but in that moment I couldn’t see much reason to keep on living. The fact that I didn’t have the courage to do myself in became just one more reason to be depressed. I was completely pathetic. I collapsed into the front seat of my old clunker car and I began to sob.

Then something miraculous happened. Through my tears my attention was arrested by the sudden appearance of  hundreds of tiny rainbows shining all around me. I was fascinated. I’d forgotten I was wearing a t-shirt with a few rhinestones. The sun had broken through the clouds and happened to shine on my shirt at just the right angle to transform the fake jewels into mini-prisms. Vivid colors were dancing everywhere around the dark interior of the car.  Suddenly I was like a 5-year-old experiencing her first rainbow and it was delightful.  So beautiful!  Rainbows!  Appreciating the beauty of the rainbows had broken through the spell of gloom and doom. Rainbows were the reason to live.  No matter what else was going on, I could still appreciate the beauty of a rainbow and that was enough.  In fact it was quite a lot.

I didn’t know it then, but I had just experienced the amazing power of Micro-Gratitude. You see, gratitude and depression are incompatible. You literally can’t feel them at the same time. Whenever you experience appreciation or gratitude you actually change your biochemistry.  Gratitude initiates a cascade of chemicals washing through your brain and body. Chemicals that are good for you, and not just for your mood but for your health.

However, as you may have noticed, it isn’t always easy to feel thankful. That’s where Micro-Gratitude comes to the rescue.  No matter how bad things are going, there is usually something small you can find to be grateful for. Try it right now. See if you can find the most humble, ordinary thing to appreciate and focus on that for a moment.

Yes, right now.  I’ll wait.

It’s easy to forget that gratitude isn’t just a thought.  It’s a physical feeling. I invite you to take the next few seconds and instead of just thinking you are grateful, really feel the appreciation for those small things you notice. For me this usually feels like “something” moves out of my head and into my heart creating a warm feeling in my chest. Sometimes it helps to close my eyes and to take a few deep breaths.  Try it yourself and notice the physical changes in the way you feel.

I invite you to make Micro-Gratitude a practice. You can even have fun with it.  On Facebook and Twitter I have a Micro-Gratitude Party every Thursday where I invite people to share their Micro-Gratitudes. The challenge is to find the tiniest most humble things to appreciate.  Past entries have included dirt (think about it), hot running water, and toilet paper. Sometimes we have a theme.  Blue. Liquid. Invisible.

Please join my Micro-Gratitude Movement and become an Ambassador from the State of Gratitude. You can begin right now by posting a comment about the small things you are able to appreciate in this moment.  If you do, I will be very thankful.

Thought Medicine is honored to announce that this post is now part of blogger Abubakar Jamil’s inspiring project The Life Lessons Series.

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{ 31 comments… add one }
  • Marta Szwaya

    I’ve been recovering from a brain hemorhage for 3 years now. I too know the power of gratitude…and you are right, It can be the tiniest thing each morning, as I descend the front staircase to the main floor of my home, I catch a glimpse of the fullbookcase in the living room, and I am filled with gratitude for the books I have collected….mostly First Edition mysteries and I acknowledge all the happy future hours reading that await me. And I am filled with a deep sense of well being that is a real feeling and it gets me started on the challenges of a new day. Marta

  • Gayle

    I am very grateful for the influencial and persuasive power of the sun. Even though it is very cold here in Toronto,a typical winter’s day, it looks bright and shiny outside from my window. The sun shining makes all the difference to my attitude of gratitude.

  • Stacey Klein

    I think the idea of Micro-Gratitude is great.Maybe you’ll think I’m a bit loopy but when I read your post of focusing on something I focused on my cordless computer mouse.I happen to really like the color-a reddih-orange color. I use it exclusively, although I have a black and white one as well.
    It made me feel good. Kind of strange, but just like you wrote a feeling inside.
    Thanks!

  • What a brilliant idea Linda! Micro-Gratitude Parties!

    Some items on my Micro Gratitude List at the moment include:
    – our #ContentPalooza Group
    – meeting lovely new clients today
    – gorgeous sunshine
    – strapping for my ankle (slight squash accident last night ;o)

    Thanks for sharing these insights!

  • Hi Linda, Abubakar and I are working on the Life Lesson Series and the ebook together and I am so happy to have learned about Micro-Gratitude. Honestly, I was transported to my college days when I had my own share of depressing thoughts, bad relationships and a school load so hard I wanted to pull out my hair (electrical engineering, argh)! But somehow life turns around. I have felt gratitude for my freedom living in this country and that always pulls me through, knowing that if we had not escaped Iran, I’d have NONE of these fabulous opportunities millions take for granted every day so thank you for sharing your story and in the process remind me of mine!
    .-= Farnoosh´s last blog ..A Movie Contest- Why do You Love your Favorite Film =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for sharing Farnoosh. I’m very excited about the Life Lesson Series and the potential to share the message of Micro-Gratitude. Yes, we take much for granted so it’s good to pause and feel appreciation for all the gifts in our lives.

  • Hi Linda:
    I went through something similar with depression years ago. It was my husband who finally said to me, “why don’t you just appreciate all the things that are good?” Thinks slowly shifted after that. I always wonder what is the fine line between depression caused by hopelessness and depression that they say is chronic and needs to be treated with medication. I want to think that most people who take meds for depression probably would not need to if they just focused on gratitude to change their thought process.
    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..Relieving depression =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for sharing your background Suzy. While there are people for whom anti-depressant medication has been helpful, I can’t think of a reason why focusing on the positive, especially starting with small steps, wouldn’t be helpful for anyone.

  • Hi Linda,
    I love a good excuse for a party and this seems like such a good one. What a fantastic idea. I’ll definitely help spead that one around the globe!
    You got me thinking too… what tiny micro thing am I grateful for today…. a smile.It came at just the right time and spread light and happiness into my day.
    Thanks for sharing your story.
    Sarah
    .-= Sarah Palmer´s last blog ..Life’s lessons… the first 7 that come to mind anyway! =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for stopping by Sarah. I’m smiling right now. Thanks for spreading light, happiness and micro-gratitude around the globe. As my kids would say, “Party on!”

  • Hi Linda,

    First time here, glad to found your blog through life lessons series! I totally agree and see how gratitude and helping others can change your life to better. I too have experienced depression in past so I know.

    I went to community college for my 2 years before transferring to Uni of Washington in Seattle, it was night and day change. Every professor, students knew me in small community college (it was not too small but medium size) and I went UW, I felt lost in 300-400 students in one class, It was some getting used to, eventually I found my groove there too. Thanks for sharing as I can see myself in bits and pieces here.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for visiting Preeti! I appreciate your comment I love what you are up to with happyheartandmind.com.

  • Linda,

    Great post and great message.

    Thank you for being a part of the Life Lessons Series.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks Abubakar! I appreciate the opportunity.

  • HI Linda, Saw your post about this on FB…nice post. I found myself smiling and nodding along…totally get it, even the depressed part in college and all that.

    For me, there’s always something to be grateful around me: my wonderful dogs who forgive me if I’m crabby or too tired to take them for a walk, my cats who are the same, the intense blue sky, a spectacular sunset, the fact that I’m alive at all…and finished college, somehow lol

    On my darkest days I’ll suddenly see a hawk circling overhead; that’s what always bring me back. I think of them as my angels watching over me.

    Nice post, thanks, today I’m feeling a lot of gratitude for beautiful cool weather after a week of heat and humidity 🙂
    .-= Leah McClellan´s last blog ..We are what we eat =-.

  • I had never heard of micro-gratitude in this way Linda. You put it so eloquently and with pure joy that it’s infectious. My very large chunk of gratitude in return. I’m already looking for rainbows….and at clouds, and flowers and people smiling and children chocced full of spirit. And I think to myself, what a wonderful world.
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..You Gotta Have Faith =-.

  • Kelly

    Right now I’m thankful for you having written this article and me stumbling upon it..
    Ten minutes ago life was stressing me out to the point of tears, now the focus has definitely shifted..! thank you thank you thank you!
    Ready to move on to some macro-gratitude now. 🙂

    • Linda Gabriel

      Oh Kelly! Now I’m the one at the point of tears – the good kind! Thanks so much for stopping by. I am grateful that you benefited from Micro Gratitude. Spread the word!

  • Hi.
    That is such a lovely image with many many rainbows. Brought many smiles to me. Thank u for sharing this micro-gratitude post. Take care
    .-= Uzma´s last blog ..14 lessons I wish I had known earlier in my life. =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Thanks for your kind comment Uzma!

  • A VERY Inspiring read.
    & yet at the same time, quite humbling…
    Nice!
    =D
    .-= snookiecollins´s last blog ..Tumbling… =-.

  • I would like to say “a great posting” what a interesting post. This is really great. Keep doing what you’re doing!

  • Linda, I really like this concept. One bit of micro-gratitude I’m feeling right now is that I got my cat back. She ran away when I was bringing her to a pet-care place last week. It’s a long story. But I was really worried about her and so grateful when the pet-care people caught her and called me to come get her.
    .-= Madeleine Kolb´s last blog ..How You Too Can Win a Gold Medal =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Madeleine, I think the return of your cat counts for way more than micro-gratitude. That’s huge! So happy you have been reunited. Thanks for sharing.

  • Hi Linda,
    Found you through a comment on Chris Guillebeau and love your ‘micro gratitiude’ concept!

    Having lived in Africa for a while I learned never to let thing get me properly down.

    Micro gratitude? I am alive, healthy, have a house, car, job (ish!), an education, wife, lovely children and much more.

    The alternative: Dead, famine, etc I am sure you get the picture!

    These days I am weird, I like making people smile! Strangers walking the other way, supermarket staff and especially, the holy grail of micro gratitude…..warming up ‘call centre staff’ with a friendly greeting!
    Stay well!
    .-= Ian Anderson´s last blog ..Life in Norway…. =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      Hi Ian!
      I’m a big fan of Chris Guillebeau. Thanks so much for sharing your Micro-Gratitudes, though they seem to be very Macro! 😉

      Yes, making people smile is an excellent pastime. NOt weird at all in my book. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Oh I love that, a Micro-Gratitude Party – love this! I will join you on Thursdays!

    There are times when it is really challenging to find things to be grateful for. I have a friend who has been diagnosed with a life threatening illness. She is 37 and recently divorced. One of the main parts of being a friend is helping friends find gratitude, helping them to see things they are grateful for. Even when it’s not a life threatening illness, when it’s just that a friend feels down, lost, or stuck – the good friends point out the rainbows.
    …perhaps good friends are like rhinestones:
    “I was wearing a t-shirt with a few rhinestones. The sun had broken through the clouds and happened to shine on my shirt at just the right angle to transform the fake jewels into mini-prisms”
    🙂
    .-= Aileen´s last blog ..Power Partners …Sharing the Key to Success =-.

    • Linda Gabriel

      I know it can be hard to feel gratitude during difficult times. At the same time, we know too much stress isn’t healthy. That’s why I like Micro-Gratitude. The tiniest bit of appreciation can brighten one’s mood even in the darkest of times. A good sense of humor helps too. I love your metaphor of friends being like rhinestones! Thanks for your comments Aileen, and yes, please join in for Micro-Gratitude Thursdays. It’s fun!

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