Practicing gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for years. We have all heard the expression or been told that we need to have an “attitude of gratitude”. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appre ciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery and addictions. Oh, and let’s not forget how it can add to a healthier marriages model.
But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. Right? Have you noticed that so many of us are conditioned to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives? And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word or Hallmark sentiment. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time and discipline. That’s why I refer to it as a practice.
That’s also why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.
Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.
There are many things to be grateful for: the sound of your child’s laughter, colorful autumn leaves, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate…mmmm, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies, the breath that you just took. What’s on your list?
Some Ways to Practice Gratitude
- I’ve long been a fan of keeping a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. Greater frequency may be better for creating a new habit, but just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
- Have some playtime and make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
- Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine. (What a great gift you are giving your children!)
- Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation. Much harder said than done, however it works miracles by creating that instant shift of attention. And we all know how like attracts like.
- When you feel like complaining, make a gratitude list instead. You may be amazed by how much better you feel.
- Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, let others know about it. Express thanks for gratitude while shouting it from the tree tops. The world needs to hear your story.
As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how co ntent and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work. And I say, “bring it on baby”!
So my dears, my question to you is…what are you grateful for?