“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” – Eckhart Tolle
It’s been nearly three years since the Covid-19 pandemic exploded onto the world stage. Since then, we have witnessed the spread of disease, war, social unrest, natural disasters, political tension, inflation, economic upheaval, and massive market volatility. For many of us, there has been a pervasive sense of anxiety and fear. Indeed, as we begin a new year, there is talk of global recession, we have divided government, and many of the past challenges remain unsolved.
Acknowledging the recent challenges is essential as these events have fundamentally changed us and will shape the world for decades. However, dwelling on past events, which are mainly out of our direct control, does us little good. Here at Redwood Grove Wealth Management, we often advise clients to focus on what they can control and let go of what they cannot. As we begin 2023, one aspect of our life that we can control despite the chaotic world around us is the practice of gratitude.
Gratitude offers us a way of embracing all that makes our lives worth living. It’s more than just thinking happy thoughts. It’s an attitude and practice by which we expand our conscious attention to perceive more of the good in our lives. Over the past two decades, scientists have made great strides toward understanding the biological roots of gratitude, the various benefits accompanying gratitude, and how people can cultivate gratitude in their day-to-day lives.
For example, regular gratitude journaling has been shown to result in 5% to 15% increases in optimism, meaning that the more we think about what we are grateful for, the more we find to be thankful for! Gratitude can decrease our self-centeredness. Evidence has shown that promoting gratitude in participants makes them more likely to share with others, even at the expense of themselves and even if the receiver is a stranger. Practicing gratitude can also reduce impatience and improve decision-making. Those more grateful than others are also less likely to be impatient during economic decision-making, leading to better decisions and less pressure from the desire for short-term gratification.
One of the most important parts of practicing gratitude is taking the time to remember all the good things in our lives. Human beings have a natural tendency to notice and dwell on negative events. This is known in behavioral finance as the “negativity bias.” Negativity bias explains why adverse events or feelings typically have a more significant impact on our psychological state than positive events or feelings. A negativity bias is hard-wired into our brains through millions of years of evolution. Our ancestors lived in an environment full of threats and focusing on the negative meant increasing the chances of staying alive.
Practicing gratitude is not the same as ignoring injustice, inequality, violence, the degradation of the environment, or any of the other myriad challenges facing humanity. Instead, it is a conscious decision to acknowledge negativity while continually reminding ourselves of the good in our lives, communities, and the world.
As we start 2023, we encourage you to start or continue gratitude practice. This can be as simple as thinking of three things you are grateful for today, keeping a gratitude journal, or creating a gratitude ritual like pausing before meals and expressing thankfulness. Not only do we believe this will be good for the heart while lifting your sense of abundance and bolstering your resilience in the face of a turbulent world, but the incredible thing about practicing gratitude is science is starting to prove it as well.