the power of being grateful is so hugely underrated when it comes to our own happiness and well being.
everybody wants to be happier, to feel more alive, and to realize contentment. the benefits of practicing a grateful life are limitless – it’s scientifically proven that being actively grateful can positively impact our sleeping habits, our outlook on life, and our ability to relate to one another. researchers Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough report that the effects of anxiety and depression lessens with a thankful heart, showing that not only is our mental state improved, but our physical health too.
we spend so much of our lives comparing ourselves to others. especially through social media where we constantly see everybody’s highlight reel, and it often seems that they have it so much better than us. how do we remain grateful?
Mark Twain said it best,
“comparison is the death of joy.”
most people don’t realize that practicing gratitude takes just that – practice. being truly grateful in our mindset requires us to change our perception of what it means to be thankful. sure, you can say thanks and truly mean it when you get great service in a restaurant, or be thankful that you’ve had success at work, but practicing a grateful mindset doesn’t need to be reserved for something you gain. so how do we achieve the benefits of being thankful?
there are physical steps and behaviors that we can learn. the simple act of keeping a gratitude journal can help your awareness of the things and events that we are thankful for every single day. a gratitude journal is a place for you to note the big and the small things that give you joy.
the best way to approach keeping your diary is to concentrate on the specific events of your day. writing ’I’m grateful for my health’ or ’I’m grateful for my family’, whilst although true, is going to get tedious pretty quickly. try to concentrate on the precise bits of your day, the specific moments. did your mother help out with your children to give you some time to breathe? did you manage to get a good nights sleep so you were more productive for the work day? maybe someone helped you with cleaning the house?
small things are just as important as the big things. journaling our experiences changes the way that we approach our gratitude practice; we actively take more notice of the everyday situations we’re faced with and it shifts our focus to the positives of the day. we learn to lessen our focus on the negatives and move our attention to what’s beneficial to our well-being.
we also need to be excited about being grateful. if we’re not feeling inspired to be more grateful then our motivation to change and adopt new practices is going to fizzle out pretty quickly. if we want to reap the benefits of living gratefully, then using the technique of mental contrasting can definitely help us achieve our goals. mental contrasting is the act of being optimistic and positive about a new habit or goal whilst remaining realistic and pragmatic that the task might be difficult sometimes. thinking in this mindset can actually make us put in more effort to see better results.
we can also look at gratefulness as an act of social science. Cecilia Dintino PsyD says that gratitude is more than something that is earned, rather that it’s something that is given. her findings suggest that gratefulness and gratitude are creative acts, something that we create within us. gratefulness is an art, and like many artists have known themselves, can be created alongside pain, suffering, and deep emotional distress. we can use this analogy to accept that even when faced with the most negative, disruptive situations in our lives, there is always space for a grateful heart, for us to construct and create thanks for the beauty in our lives. gratefulness should be treated like a gift, rather than something we’re forced to give to those who earn it.
gratitude is a close relative of happiness. acknowledging specific moments of joy and thankfulness doesn’t have to be limited to private journals. another beneficial project to change our outlook on life is keeping a jar of gratefulness. it’s a really simple concept that’s become popular and a lot of people now do this annually.
write down on a slip of paper the act or person that’s brought about the gratefulness and put it in a jar. add one note to it every day, and then at the end of the week/month/year, open the jar and enrich yourself with the joy of remembering those specific moments. a jar of gratitude can be enjoyed privately or with others; sometimes it’s nice to have a collective jar that family members or friends participate with too.
to live a grateful life is powerful. it involves training our minds with habits and behavioral practices that can be applied to so many different aspects of our lives to change them for the better. by spending a few moments every day being present (in the moment) and asking ourselves ‘what am i thankful for?’ we can encourage better self-awareness, decreased anxiety and a huge wealth of physical and mental benefits. try it today by taking a second to breathe deeply, to concentrate on the idea that gratefulness is created from inside us, and that we have the power to give our thanks to whoever we want to give it to. it’s not something that depends entirely on what we gain out of a situation.
making gratitude a part of your life is really easy. it just takes practice and a thankful heart to notice that there is something to be grateful for every single day. once we accept gratefulness is within us, then we have unlocked so much power.