Bear's Blog

A Different Take on Gratitude

Nov 26, 2021

Sooo much of your inbox will be about gratitude around Thanksgiving. Most of us know how a daily gratitude practice (traditionally called “counting your blessings”) has numerous benefits.* How can we extend that gratitude to ourselves in a meaningful way?

We constantly notice how we fall short, and push ourselves to improve. When we drop the ideal of perfectionism, we can be a little easier on ourselves. Yet after a momentary congratulation for a particular accomplishment, or a gesture of appreciation, we still mostly notice where we could do better - in so many aspects of our lives.

That’s why we hear so much these days about self-care, self-love, and  self-compassion. Take a bath, get enough sleep, eat well, review your boundaries, be resilient, exercise, let yourself feel more… seems like self-care is just another long to-do list.

There are simple ways to appreciate yourself that DON’T involve any thinking or much effort. Give yourself the gift of touch! Touch is known to stimulate oxytocin (the feel good hormone); reduce stress; lower blood pressure and heart rate; decrease pain and promote healing; enhance your immune system, and - help you experience being connected on a visceral level. It only takes 20 to 60 seconds to reap these rewards! Surprisingly you don’t need anyone else to enjoy the benefits of touch (but the more the merrier.)

With that, I encourage you to give and receive:

A self-hug

A high-five**

A hand to the heart

A pat on the shoulder… you get the idea!

 I’m a hugger, and don’t we all miss hugs in the Covid era? There are many versions, but just crossing your arms qualifies as a self-hug. In this position, you can add patting yourself, or even rocking back and forth a few times. It’s what we do to comfort babies – why not yourself?

If you have someone else to hug, bear hugs are the best (of course.) Even with a more casual hug, I recommend aiming for the right side – which brings your two hearts into closer contact, if only briefly. It enhances the hug energetically. 

Pets consistently bring touch into our lives (wonder why they are called “pets”?) When a cat or dog presses into or rubs up against your legs, they are expressing love through touch. Animals can even be seen expressing care by physically interacting with other species, in unusual combinations! (Watching those animal videos are shown to have physiological advantages too!)

 Of course, infants and young children bring touch into your life in a dramatic way. I was sad to see that become less frequent with my girls, but then I saw how affectionate my older daughter is with her partner. It’s a positive sign of emotional health. Studies show a minimum daily dose of hugs (8) and kisses (5) exponentially increases your happiness!

I’m a tree hugger myself… and fondle my ferns and other plants as I groom them! Although it’s not soft and cuddly, I am interacting with another living being in a caring way, and appreciating what they bring into my environment.

Doing a “high-five” has also been shown to automatically shift our neurological health for the better. Our brain makes unconscious, positive associations with the very movement. It doesn’t have to mark anything special – just an acknowledgement that you ARE a wondrous human being before you DO anything! 

So how about a little self-appreciation? Touch is a great gratitude practice that keeps on giving – to yourself, and others.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, 

 Don’t forget to sign up for the Making Miracles Happen podcast series, coming to your inbox starting December 1st! I am one of the podcast guests – join me, Adrian, and a host of inspiring angels to brighten your season.

https://makingmiracleshappenseries.com/BearMcKay

 *If you want a refresher, with exercises, articles and TED talks, check out the “28 Benefits of Gratitude” at positivepsychology.com

**“The High Five Habit” by Mel Robbins for more on that!

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