By Janet Miller
In the famous words of Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
It can be easy to get swept away in the fast lane and forget to stop and show your appreciation for what you do have. A life well lived is one of gratitude and thankfulness. To help you on your gratitude journey, here are 8 ways to have more gratitude in your daily life.
1. Don’t be picky: appreciate everything
Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for.
Even if it is as simple as appreciating the clear weather or how quickly your mailman delivered your mail last Friday, don’t leave anything out when practicing your gratitude.
2. Find gratitude in your challenges
Gratitude is not only about being thankful for positive experiences. In fact, sometimes thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.
Photo by Marcos Vasconcelos
Western Buddhist master Jack Kornfield remembers an exercise he did with a man who was caring for his grandson while his son and daughter-in-law battled a drug addiction. Despite all that he had been through, the man was still able to find gratitude for the amount of compassion he had learned to show and the impact he was able to have on other people.
Dig a little deeper into some of your own past experiences and try to figure out how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.
3. Practice mindfulness
Sit down daily and think through five to ten things you are grateful for. The trick is that you need to picture it in your mind and sit with that feeling of gratitude in your body. Doing this every day will rewire your brain to be naturally more grateful, and you’ll start feeling happier after every session.
It only takes eight weeks of gratitude practice for people to start showing changed brain patterns that lead to greater empathy and happiness.
Your brain is a powerful tool, and training it towards gratitude is all part of ensuring that the gratitude comes more easily as you practice, so what are you waiting for?
4. Keep a gratitude journal
After your mindfulness session, write down your positive thoughts! Keeping a journal of all of the things you are thankful for can help you keep track of and refer back to the positives in your life.
Write down your positive thoughts to further focus your attention on the subject. While you are putting the pen to paper, you have no choice but to consciously think about the words you are writing without other distracting, ungrateful thoughts.
You can journal every day after your gratitude practice, or you can come back to the journal on a regular schedule weekly or monthly.
For many people, the key to having more gratitude is to give back to others in their local community. Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being, and thus our ability to have more gratitude.
University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman, supports this theory with his research in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. After testing all kinds of variables that help improve our well-being, he found that volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.
In other words: helping others helps you!
6. Express yourself
Sometimes it’s not enough to simply keep your gratitude to yourself. You can increase your feelings of gratitude by expressing that same gratitude to the people you care about.
Soul Pancake, a group that works to discover the “science of happiness,” ran an experiment where they encouraged people to write a letter to a person they were grateful for. By itself, this exercise increased their levels of happiness from 2 to 4%. However, when the same people made a phone call to the person they were thankful for to express their gratitude directly, happiness levels jumped from 4% to 19%.
Not only does expressing your gratitude for someone make their day a little brighter, but it can do wonders for increasing your own levels of gratitude and happiness in the long run
7. Spend time with loved ones
If you’re struggling with feeling the gratitude in the moment, go spend time with your friends and family. Of course it will help you grow closer to them and strengthen your relationship, but it will also give you a chance to practice your acts of gratitude on people that you care about.
Start small if they’re having trouble finding ways to support your friends and family. For instance, why don’t you make sure you’re listening intently the next time someone shares a story with you instead of waiting for your own chance to speak? Or start a conversation with a difficult member of the family by complimenting their new shoes or hair-cut.
8. Improve your happiness in other areas of your life
Being grateful can make you happy, but being happy can also make you grateful. There are plenty of other ways to get your mood up, including exercising or participating in a hobby you enjoy.
Once you are feeling the endorphins flow, showing gratitude will become even easier and you’ll start to be able to make list after list of all of the things in your life you’re thankful for.
Janet Miller is a serial entrepreneur, habit scientist and co-founder of Jen Reviews. She writes extensively and has been featured on Fast Company, The Muse, The Huffington Post and Tiny Buddha.
10 Ways to Become More Grateful
Robert Emmons offers everyday tips for living a life of gratitude.
1. Keep a Gratitude Journal. Establish a daily practice in which you remind yourself of the gifts, grace, benefits, and good things you enjoy. Setting aside time on a daily basis to recall moments of gratitude associated with ordinary events, your personal attributes, or valued people in your life gives you the potential to interweave a sustainable life theme of gratefulness.
2. Remember the Bad. To be grateful in your current state, it is helpful to remember the hard times that you once experienced. When you remember how difficult life used to be and how far you have come, you set up an explicit contrast in your mind, and this contrast is fertile ground for gratefulness.
3. Ask Yourself Three Questions. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan, which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received from __?”, “What have I given to __?”, and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused?”
4. Learn Prayers of Gratitude. In many spiritual traditions, prayers of gratitude are considered to be the most powerful form of prayer, because through these prayers people recognize the ultimate source of all they are and all they will ever be.
The Gratitude Project
What if we didn’t take good things for granted? Learn how gratitude can lead to a better life—and a better world—in this new GGSC book.
5. Come to Your Senses. Through our senses—the ability to touch, see, smell, taste, and hear—we gain an appreciation of what it means to be human and of what an incredible miracle it is to be alive. Seen through the lens of gratitude, the human body is not only a miraculous construction, but also a gift.
6. Use Visual Reminders. Because the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, visual reminders can serve as cues to trigger thoughts of gratitude. Often times, the best visual reminders are other people.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude. Research shows that making an oath to perform a behavior increases the likelihood that the action will be executed. Therefore, write your own gratitude vow, which could be as simple as “I vow to count my blessings each day,” and post it somewhere where you will be reminded of it every day.
8. Watch your Language. Grateful people have a particular linguistic style that uses the language of gifts, givers, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. In gratitude, you should not focus on how inherently good you are, but rather on the inherently good things that others have done on your behalf.
9. Go Through the Motions. If you go through grateful motions, the emotion of gratitude should be triggered. Grateful motions include smiling, saying thank you, and writing letters of gratitude.
10. Think Outside the Box. If you want to make the most out of opportunities to flex your gratitude muscles, you must creatively look for new situations and circumstances in which to feel grateful.
Gratitude is one of life’s unique mysteries.
As children, our parents constantly reminded us to be grateful, whether it was for the food on the table that we were praying we wouldn’t have to eat, or for the roof over our heads.
When we grew up and had children of our own, we did the same.
We value gratitude so highly because we know that people who don’t express it put a major limit on their potential.
If you aren’t grateful:
- No one will want to give you a promotion.
- No one will recommend you for that amazing job.
- No one will want to follow your lead.
People who practice gratitude, on the other hand, have an incredible amount of influence and success.
This is universally agreed upon, yet—if we’re being honest—very few people actually know how to be grateful.
Why? Because practicing gratitude often involves going against the very feelings and emotions we experience on a daily basis.
We know it’s what we’re supposed to do, but it feels unnatural.
Especially if things aren’t going your way.
In the middle of a tough moment, all you want to do is pull your hair out, tell someone how they wronged you, or break down and cry.
To feel that way is to be human.
Fortunately, there are specific things you can do to train your mind to be grateful that go beyond simply telling yourself you should be more grateful.
If you want to really understand how to be grateful, these give you a solid foundation upon which to build.
3 Tips for Learning How to Be Grateful
1. Understand that you can choose to be grateful
You and I were made with a will that is stronger than our emotions—that means we have the power to change our emotions, feelings, perceptions, and point of view.
If that sounds silly to you, think about this…
What do you do when you’re having an unpleasant conversation at home and the phone suddenly rings?
You answer with a calm and collected “Hello!”.
That’s because you and I can choose how we act despite how we feel.
The best part? Eventually, our feelings start to follow our actions.
If I’m sad and decide to watch mindless TV while eating a gallon of ice cream, I’ll feel worse—but if I’m sad and decide to turn on happy music or count my blessings, I’ll feel better.
It may not happen immediately, but with practice, you can train your feelings to follow your actions.
2. Look for reasons to love your problems
If you live in America, have a job, and are reading this blog post on a computer, cell phone, or tablet right now, the majority of your problems are most likely not as serious as you think they are.
In fact, many of the problems we face are just signs of the blessings we’ve experienced! Think about it…
- If your muscles ache at the end of a long day at work, that means you’re able to move, lift, and carry things—abilities that hundreds of thousands of people would love to have. It also means you’re employed.
- If something is wrong with your house and needs to be fixed, that means you have a roof over your head.
- If you’re feeling unfulfilled at work or in life, that means you’re aware that you have a much larger purpose, and a tremendous opportunity to fulfill it.
So next time you get bent out of shape about something (because we all do), take a deep breath and be thankful for what you do have and what is going right.
Stop, take a breath, and write your blessings down if you need to! When you look, you will find them.
3. Don’t keep it to yourself—share gratitude with others
Changing your feelings by practicing gratitude becomes even easier if you start using gratitude to help others change the way they feel, too.
Everyone longs for appreciation, and tons of people do great work that goes unnoticed. You can be the person who notices them and gives them the appreciation they deserve.
Opportunities for expressing gratitude are all around you, hidden in life’s everyday moments:
- Let the cashier at the grocery store know you appreciate his speedy service.
- Text your mom and let her know you’re grateful for the way she raised you.
- Leave a note of appreciation for the crew that cleans your office. Point out something specific you’ve noticed they do extremely well, even if it seems small.
Gratitude is contagious. When you give it to others, your feelings can’t help but get caught up in the action.
Knowing How to Be Grateful Is Vital to Success
Remember, being grateful takes practice and consistent action. It’s something we should never stop learning how to do.
When you start each day with a commitment to that practice, I promise you will start seeing the world in a new light.
People will want to be around you. And if you are someone people love being around, great things happen.
You’ve heard the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats.”
In this case, those “boats” are all the details of your life—your relationships, goals, work performance, and interactions—and gratitude is the “rising tide”—it helps you take all of them to the next level.
Question: What is one thing you will do today to practice gratitude? Leave a comment below and let me know!
This single mom’s daily gratitude routine helped her to be grateful in all things.
by Arfa Syed
– Posted on Jan 22, 2016
Three years ago, feeling gratitude seemed impossible to me. I’d just found the strength to leave a physically and emotionally abusive marriage while pregnant with my first child, and life as I knew it was falling apart. Then, I received the sweetest gift.
While at work, a package came for me from one of my vendors—a green journal with the word “Gratitude” written across the front. “What could I possibly be grateful for right now?” I thought. Then, I turned to the big “G” in the sky for answers: Google.
I scrolled through gratitude articles that told me why I should be more grateful, but nothing really resonated with me on how I could get there. So I prayed about it and that prayer led me to my daily gratitude routine I’m sharing below.
Overtime, gratitude has become a deeply-rooted habit, entrenched in the fabric of my daily life. Here are the four ways I make gratitude a lifestyle:
1) Write in a Gratitude Journal.
Every morning since receiving the gratitude journal, I wake up, grab my journal, and jot down something good. Even on impossibly sad days, or incredibly long days as a single, working mother, I find something to write about that I am grateful for, whether it was a neighbor who gave me a delicious cake recipe or the woman on the street that saved me from losing a glove. On particularly hard days, I make an effort to write in my journal more than once, just to remind myself of the good that exists in the world.
2) Be Present.
Once I shift into a mindset of recognizing the goodness all around me by writing in my journal, I begin to focus not on the pain of the past or the anxiety of the future, but the joy of the present. I take a moment to remind myself that time is a precious commodity and right now, I have another day to decide how to use mine. I inhale and exhale deeply and appreciate that I have breath in my body, that I’m alive, that I’m here, right now, in this moment.
3) Rethink Obstacles.
Obstacles can arise at any time throughout the day—personal relationships, co-workers, health issues or financial problems. But ever since my pregnancy and divorce, I make a conscious effort to understand how my obstacle is building my perseverance and growing me as a person. I’ve learned that obstacles can not only make me stronger, but also help me get to know myself on a deeper level and lead me closer to my purpose. With practice, I’ve learned to see obstacles as opportunities to grow.
4) Remember to be wowed.
After “mamma,” my daughter’s next word was “wow!” I spend a lot of time looking at the world through her eyes—new and fresh and certainly appreciative of little wonders. One afternoon, I was rushing into the house, carrying her, when she started kicking her legs, wanting me to stop—she saw a squirrel on the tree and wanted to sit and watch it eat a nut. So, I stopped and we sat there and watched. I couldn’t help but notice the delicate green leaves on the tree branches, how delightfully the squirrel was eating and how great it was to pause and enjoy that with my daughter. What a reminder that I’m surrounded by beauty. Now, I pay attention to the beautiful river I pass on my way to work and the small joys of being a mom. Through my daughter, God shows me that even my mundane mommy routines can be wondrous.
Some days are harder than others and some obstacles seem so impossible to overcome, but with gratitude and faith, all things are possible. And every day is a new chance to be grateful.
Instead of looking for a reason, just create grace from within.
Posted Nov 21, 2018
“I do not at all understand the mystery of grace — only that it meets us where we are but does not leave us where it found us.“ —Anne Lamott
So many of my clients tell me that gratitude, used as a skill for well-being, is not helpful.
They try to keep a gratitude journal, but when they scan their lives for what to feel grateful for, they come up short. Other people in their lives are abusive or neglectful. Plans and dreams disappoint. The news is harsh. The weather sucks. And holidays bring bad memories and stressful dynamics.
There is a lot that’s not right with the world. This has always been. Suffering is everywhere. Greed leads. So it should be no surprise that a sense of gratitude doesn’t come to us easily.
Yet social science has much to say about its benefits. Researchers Dr. Robert Emmons and Dr. Michael McCullough report that subjects who practice gratitude experience decreased anxiety and depression, and also demonstrate kinder behavior towards others, express less aggression, and make fewer physical complaints.
The question is, can you be grateful when you are hurting, or if you don’t have enough to be grateful for?
Maybe the problem lies in how we understand gratitude. Maybe we look for it in the wrong place.
Sometimes, when I ask my clients to focus on gratitude, I see their gaze turning upward, suggesting they are searching for the answer outside of themselves. They appear to be considering what the world, or other people, or the cosmic divine have provided for them. They say: Let me see, who or what has earned my thanks? And by the way, what have you done for me lately?
Next, I see them searching even further outside themselves, demonstrating a sort of global scan. When they squint their eyes, I can tell they are measuring. Then comes the question: Have I gotten enough? And how does it compare?
When I see the furrowed brow, I know: They are thinking that they are not worthy. They say, I am not worth taking in that which I could be grateful for. I have to give to get. A feeling of debt fills the office space.
And so it goes with our consumer-based gratitude. I never get enough, and I am never enough.
But what if gratitude isn’t something that has to be earned? What if it there were no external standards of measure that lead us to feeling grateful?
What if feeling grateful doesn’t have to wait until pain and suffering cease?
Consider this: The word gratitude is derived from the Latin gratia, which translates as grace. The Merriam Webster dictionary defines grace as “unmerited divine assistance given humans for their regeneration or sanctification.” Perhaps gratitude, like the state of grace, is an unmerited birthright.
Maybe gratefulness is in you, like the stars are in the sky.
Perhaps gratitude, like your breath, is just there, sitting inside your wise waiting self, ready to serve?
To feel gratitude is a creative act, which means it is generated from a source within you. And this experience, like all of art, can be had alongside pain and deprivation. This is the beauty of us; we are that complex.
Close your eyes. Take some breaths. Tell yourself that for this moment the feeling of gratitude lives deep in your multilayered person. It doesn’t have to have a reason to be there. You are its creator. Don’t worry, it will never run out. There is an endless supply of grateful energy in you.
This holiday, instead of chewing our pencils as we ponder and scribble into our diaries reasons to be grateful, let’s just sit still and look inside. Peer down deep into our personal well of being, and let her fill up from within.
Ask yourself: Whom do I gift with my gratitude, rather than who has earned my gratitude?
Don’t worry if this feels foreign at first. We have a ways to go before we can truly stop seeing others as assets and ourselves as consumers. Perhaps someday we will let go of the idea that life owes us, and just creatively participate in what it brings.
By President HenryВ B. Eyring
First Counselor in the First Presidency
Our Father in Heaven commands us to be thankful in all things (see 1В Thessalonians 5:18), and He requires that we give thanks for the blessings we receive (see D&C 46:32). We know that all of His commandments are intended to make us happy, and we also know that to break commandments leads to misery.
So to be happy and to avoid misery, we must have a grateful heart. We have seen in our lives the connection between gratitude and happiness. All of us would like to feel gratitude, yet it is not easy to be consistently grateful in all things in the trials of life. Sickness, disappointment, and the loss of people we love come at times in our lives. Our sorrows can make it hard to see our blessings and to appreciate the blessings God has in store for us in the future.
It is a challenge to count our blessings because we have a tendency to take good things for granted. When we lose a roof over our heads, food to eat, or the warmth of friends and family, we realize how grateful we should have been when we had them.
Most of all, sometimes it is hard for us to be sufficiently grateful for the greatest gifts we receive: the birth of Jesus Christ, His Atonement, the promise of resurrection, the opportunity to enjoy eternal life with our families, the Restoration of the gospel with the priesthood and its keys. Only with the help of the Holy Ghost can we begin to feel what those blessings mean for us and for those we love. And only then can we hope to be thankful in all things and avoid the offense to God of ingratitude.
We must ask in prayer that God, by the power of the Holy Ghost, will help us see our blessings clearly even in the midst of our trials. He can help us by the power of the Spirit to recognize and be grateful for blessings we take for granted. What has helped me the most is to ask God in prayer, вЂњWouldst Thou please direct me to someone I can help for Thee?вЂќ It is in helping God bless others that I have seen my own blessings more closely.
My prayer was once answered when a couple I had not known before invited me to go to a hospital. There I found a little baby so small that she could fit in my hand. In only a few weeks of life, she had undergone multiple surgeries. The doctors had told the parents that more difficult surgery would be needed for the heart and lungs to sustain life in that little child of God.
At the request of the parents, I gave the baby a priesthood blessing. The blessing included a promise of life being extended. More than giving a blessing, I received the blessing myself of a more grateful heart.
With our FatherвЂ™s help, all of us can choose to feel more gratitude. We can ask Him to help us see our blessings more clearly, whatever our circumstances. For me that day, I appreciated as never before the miracle of my own heart and lungs working. I gave thanks on the way home for blessings to my children that I could see more clearly were miracles of kindness from God and from good people around them.
Most of all, I felt gratitude for the evidence of the Atonement working in the lives of those anxious parents and in mine. I had seen hope and the pure love of Christ shining in their faces, even in their terrible trial. And I felt the evidence you can feel if you ask God to reveal to you that the Atonement can allow you to feel hope and love.
We all can make the choice to give thanks in prayer and to ask God for direction to serve others for HimвЂ”especially during this time of year when we celebrate the SaviorвЂ™s birth. God the Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave us the Atonement, the greatest of all gifts and all giving (see D&C 14:7).
Giving thanks in prayer can allow us to see the magnitude of these blessings and all of our other blessings and so receive the gift of a more grateful heart.
Teaching from This Message
Writing down our experiences and blessings can help us remember them and give us something to refer back to. Consider asking those you teach to write down what they are grateful forвЂ”to help them remember the blessings they have received, recognize the blessings of the present, and look forward to the blessings of the future.
You could also encourage those you teach to follow President EyringвЂ™s example in asking Heavenly Father to direct them to someone they can help or serve.
God the Father gave His Son, and Jesus Christ gave us the Atonement, the greatest of all gifts and all giving.
Silent Night, by Liz Lemon Swindle, may not be copied
“Being grateful” is common advice that everyone has heard: We all know that focusing on what you have instead of what you don’t have, can make you a happier person.
But, let’s face reality: It’s difficult to be grateful when you don’t feel that way. If things are not going well, the last thing you want to do is “look on the bright side” or “focus on the positive.” You’re entitled to feel skeptical about being grateful, right?
Well, not so fast, because science shows that feeling grateful actually does make a radical difference: In his book The Upward Spiral, Alex Korb, a UCLA neuroscientist, says that focusing on what you are grateful for actually releases dopamine and serotonin into your body.
Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, as well, and is said to play a major part in mood regulation, anxiety and happiness. When these two chemicals are plentiful, we feel good; when they are low, we just don’t feel upbeat, plain and simple.
Korb also writes that the mere act of searching for something to be grateful for can make particular neurons in your brain more efficient, thus making it easier to feel grateful over time.
The difficulty with gratitude
A valid rebuttal to being tasked with feeling grateful is that it is hard to feel that way about things that come easy to us.
For instance, telling people to be thankful for the roof they have over their heads is hard for them to digest if they’ve never struggled with money. Or, telling someone to be thankful for the food they’re eating may not work if they simply can’t relate to someone starving in a distant land.
A related and common piece of advice is to list all the things you are grateful for and review it each day. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s difficult for us humans to focus on so many different items at once. It’s as if we’re multi-tasking with our thoughts and feelings.
So, if you’re trying to be thankful for the love of your spouse and the security of your job — at the same time — you may have a hard time getting a full sense of gratitude for either advantage.
Looking for ways to feel gratitude that make more sense? Here are ways to reprogram your brain to do just that:
1. Understand that your brain can rewire itself.
Neuropsychologists Rick Hanson, author of Buddha’s Brain, and Joe Dispenza, author of You Are the Placebo: Making Your Mind Matter, echo the findings mentioned above. For the sake of brevity, they explain that our memories come from neural connections in our brain. When we focus on a particular thought or feeling related to that memory, those connections become stronger and easier for us to remember.
However, when we stop dwelling on those thoughts, the connections dissipate, making it difficult for us to remember why they bothered us in the first place.
So, although it may be difficult at first, you should continue focusing on things you are grateful for, because that practice will get easier over time, as those new neural connections become stronger.
You will start noticing that those triggers that used to set you off don’t anymore and that you’re able to look on the bright or opportunisitic side of things much more easily.
2. Make a list.
The key is simplicity. When I am creating a performance program for my clients, I tell them to focus on how their three basic needs — safety, satisfaction and connection — are being fulfilled. .
When you are looking for what to be grateful for, focus only on one of these needs and pick only one thing you are grateful from among them. Don’t overload your brain. Focusing on one thing at a time enables you to emotionally invest in it fully. Here are some ideas:
Safety: What gives you comfort and security in your life? Think: health, your home, the city you live in, support of your family and friends, money, the freedom you have, a stable job, etc.
Satisfaction: What activities are you able to pursue that make you feel good or accomplished? Think: realizing goals, hitting targets at work, engaging in hobbies you enjoy, exercising, reading a good book, driving your car or enjoying the outdoors.
Connection: What makes you feel closer, loved and intimate or connected to others? Think: spending time with family and friends, meeting new people, volunteering, having a great meeting at work, enhancing a relationship with a colleague, being part of a sports event or a party where people share the same interests.
If you are having trouble finding something to be grateful for, watch the news and I’m sure you will get some ideas.
3. Focus on ‘the why.’
After each item on your list, write why you are grateful for it. This will help you associate an emotional response with it, and let it sink a little more into your brain. What impact does it have on your life? Why does it mean so much to you?
Gratitude is an emotion. So, to get its benefits, you must actually feel grateful for what you are focusing on. Just thinking about it or saying a list of things out loud won’t do much. I’ve written about this topic before. Take a look at “Why Your Morning Routine Doesn’t Work.”
4. Experience more.
Don’t worry if you are having trouble feeling grateful for things in your life. You’re probably unaccustomed to this way of thinking. You just need to surround yourself with things that will make you appreciate what you have.
Unfortunately, we feel most grateful for things in life when we recognize how little others have. But if we elevate our gratitude while helping others, then we create a win-win. I suggest volunteering with youth or helping out families in need, so you can see what they are going through and understand how much you truly do have.
If you are still finding it hard to feel thankful, do some research and learn about the conditions other people are facing in the world. You’ll have a different perspective on the issues you are dealing with. One strategy is to find a few videos that hit home and watch them every morning to remember how fortunate you are. This will kick your gratitude into action immediately, with little effort.
The point is not to exploit the bad things other people are going through and use them for our advantage. It is to understand that the more we appreciate what we have in life, the happier we will be, the happier our kids will be and the better a place this world will be.
How to be more grateful
We all know the feeling of gratitude — a state of appreciation that makes us more present, open, and connected with the people around us. It is a heartwarming emotion that has been widely researched and lauded for its benefits, and yet it is a feeling that many of us don’t seem to experience as often as we would like.
We might look at gratitude as an intellectual idea, maybe even a cliché. But the truth is that when we feel happiness, we are calmer and less reactive … and gratitude is the most effective gateway into such a contented space. What’s more, everyone has the power to tap into this space, and the more familiar this feeling becomes, the more time we are likely to spend experiencing it.
It’s easy to get caught up in the tiny inconveniences of life: the frustrating morning commute, the annoying email from a colleague, the missing item from a takeout order. The mind seemingly has no issue reacting to everyday nuisances, but spends little time naturally appreciating the right things, big or small.
“Unless we take time to train in appreciation — to remember how to be more grateful — then it will never be more than an elusive, fleeting experience,” says former Buddhist monk and the co-founder of Headspace, Andy Puddicombe.
So if you’re ready to make being grateful a stronger part of your life, read on. Because each and every one of us is capable of discovering a renewed sense of appreciation for ourselves, and the world around us.
The benefits of practicing gratitude
Whether through a gratitude meditation or by keeping a gratitude journal, learning how to be more grateful has myriad benefits. Researchers have done their due diligence on the topic. One of the world’s leading scientific experts on the subject, University of California, Davis professor Robert A. Emmons, said: “The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life.” In their research, Emmons and his colleagues studied more than one thousand people between the ages of eight and 80. They found that those who are consistent about practicing gratitude reported significant benefits.
According to Emmons, “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function, and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety, and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.” If you’re not sold on the health benefits alone, Emmons adds, “Gratitude blocks toxic emotions, such as envy, resentment, regret and depression, which can destroy our happiness.”
How to be more grateful
Even though expressing gratitude is good for the body and mind, it’s not necessarily an easy task. But when we practice being more grateful, we discover that there is a humility to appreciation; an awareness that we are part of something bigger that we can’t take for granted.
The path to gratitude is not one-size-fits-all. Some people may choose to practice gratitude verbally, while others might prefer to explore it through meditation or jot down their feelings in a gratitude journal. Here are a few ways in which you can begin reaping the benefits of gratitude.
Embrace setbacks. Sometimes, to appreciate the good things in life, it helps to remember the bad ones. Take a few moments to think about the past, back to a time when your circumstances were less fortunate than the present. Think about how you’ve overcome those previous challenges and how you’ve grown as a person since then. Remembering the bad times and embracing those setbacks will help you feel grateful for how far you’ve come.
Make it a part of your routine. Just like brushing your teeth twice a day or enjoying a morning cup of tea, gratitude can become an everyday habit as long as you have a plan to get it there. Think about a part of your daily routine that brings you joy. It could be that morning cup of tea, your commute to work, your evening jog. Try to think about the things you are grateful for during the activity. Eventually, you’ll start organically associating that part of your day with the practice, making being grateful a more significant part of your life.
Focus on others. We’ve all fallen into the trap of getting too caught up in our everyday problems. By shifting some of our energy into cultivating empathy for others and focusing on their happiness, we give our minds permission to relax and enjoy the present moment. This practice can trigger a sense of gratitude and joy within ourselves.
Meditate for appreciation. From the frustrating little accidents life decides to throw our way to the harsh daily revelations of the news cycle, disruptions are everywhere. More often than not, we get caught up in a vicious cycle. A thought looms into our mind, it branches into more ideas (many of them triggering a sense of panic or anxiety), we manage to store it away for a moment, and then history repeats itself. Meditation is a tool that allows us to take a step back, relax the mind, and let our thoughts and emotions come and go without judgment. This tool can be used to gain deeper insights into our motivation for practicing gratitude. While meditating, ask yourself, “Who or what do you appreciate most in your life?” Then, observe the feelings and thoughts that naturally arise. Meditating for appreciation is about asking the question, not answering it.