“When you focus on the good, the good gets better”
This is a topic I have wanted to write on for a long time: the importance of gratitude – ESPECIALLY in what are typically considered to be both competitive and collaborative fields like ecology and conservation.
The importance of gratitude in ecology
Gratitude is all about appreciation. And when it comes to conserving the natural world – gratitude is an integral part of that for me. Our planet is an incredible place – the finest details, the intricate interactions, the big picture – and appreciating this is usually the why behind our passion for protecting wildlife and beautiful time.
Today we will look at
- The science behind gratitude
- Gratitude in our life
- Gratitude and ecology
The science of gratitude
Gratitude research has repeatedly shown that thankful people have higher energy levels, are more relaxed, are happier and are healthier. This is because gratitude reduces stress levels, increases the quality of your sleep and physically changes the way we see the world, promoting joy by stimulating the vagus nerve and activating the striatum or “reward centre” of the brain.
Gratitude is a choice.
And like a muscle, by practicing gratitude you can strengthen and foster it as your dominant response in life. Not only will this assist you with inner peace and reduced stress, but it will also make you a better ecologist by increasing your skills in communication, decision making and positive, professional conduct.
CULTIVATING GRATITUDE IN OUR LIVES
There are so many ways you can practice and cultivate gratitude in your everyday life. Making it a part of your daily morning routine is one of the most powerful ways to do this. Here are 3 ways:
Start a gratitude journal.
Either physically on paper, or in the notes section of your phone, write three things you’re grateful for each morning.
Soon after I wake up, I will smile, pause to reflect and write down at least 3 things that come to mind that I am grateful for – and it doesn’t need to take more than 2 or 3 minutes.
As a test, I just wrote out this morning’s gratitude. In 2 minutes 27 seconds I have written 15 things I am grateful for. Start your day on the “right foot”, and your life will slowly start to feel so peachy!
If implementing this, be strict with yourself – there’s no excuse not to try.
Spend time in nature
Gratitude is an incredibly powerful tool and being in nature is such a beautiful place to feel it. Appreciating what’s around you, heightening your awareness by focusing on small details and enjoying your powers of observation.
No wonder ecologists are some of the happiest people I know – spending so much time outdoors, absorbed in the natural world does wonders for the soul!
Pay it forwards
Each day make a point of thanking someone, letting them know you appreciate something they have said or done. Small or large, regular or one-off, it can be in person or by message.
“Thanks for that cup of tea” “Really appreciate your hard work yesterday”
Showing your appreciation by “paying it forwards” will attract and magnify more appreciation back into your life.
Gratitude and ecology
I have always found that gratitude is such a massive component of working in ecology for many reasons at so many different levels.
On a personal level, there is so much gratitude for every opportunity received by people to support them working their dream job in ecology. Being a competitive, limited field, working with wildlife and contributing to conservation in the first place is cause for gratitude in itself.
At an everyday job level, ecology field work can be completely dependent on so many “chance factors”: weather conditions, animals showing up or performing certain behaviours, and so much more – it can feel like a miracle when things come together and project goals are achieved.
At a higher level, so much ecological “ground work” is reliant upon volunteers, passionate people who donate their time and resources to assist in carrying out important wildlife conservation work. Similarly, not-for-profit ecological work is often funded by passionate people who believe in the cause and want to donate their financial resources to support wildlife conservation work to happen. It is important to appreciate that without these generous supporters, a lot of valuable conservation work would not have happened. Thinking about this always inspires gratitude.
At a global level, we should all feel incredible grateful for the earth and our capacity to thrive on it. Thanks to evolution and squillions of cyanobacteria over many millions of years, there is oxygen to breathe and whole ecosystems of useful and beautiful taxa… From here, your gratitude can go wild!
So, I wanted to conclude this post by highlighting that for everything in your life, there are so many people, resources, lucky coincidences that have contributed to where you find yourself.
None of your work is completely yours.
Everything you do in life is a collaborative masterpiece.
And this is no bad thing. Whenever I remember this, my body floods with appreciation for the world, and I remember to stay humble and stay grateful.
Feeling grateful. Feeling appreciative. Feeling thankful.
It’s all part of the ecology experience.
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