“It’s not easy being grateful all the time. But it’s when you feel least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you.” ~Oprah Winfrey
What can gratitude give you? A 25% increase in happiness says University of California Psychology Professor Dr. Robert Emmons and author of the book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. In the book, he says, “Gratitude is literally one of the few things that can measurably change people’s lives.” Dr. Emmons has researched and discovered that the practice of gratitude helps us to cope better with stress, gives us greater health, and increases positive feelings such as hope, peace and happiness.
While the benefits of gratitude are clear, many of us have a tough time feeling grateful, especially when stressful things happen such as losing a job or getting an illness. But this is when gratitude can be used as a tool to help us focus on what is working in life, turning the negative into the positive and creating a better outlook. For example a response to a job loss may be, “I’m mad that I lost my job, but grateful for my supportive family and the home that I own.” Shifting to what’s good helps us to look forward instead of dwelling on what happened. It doesn’t mean that we should stop grieving the loss, but there is always a choice in how the loss is played out.
Here are some helpful gratitude practices.
Make a top 100 gratitude list – Are there 10, 20, 30, 50 things you can be grateful for? Try 100! Start to think about things that you may take for granted like the singing birds outside, a warm bed, a hot cup of coffee, the unconditional love of a child. Good is everywhere; it’s a matter of our being conscious to its presence.
Keep a gratitude journal – Keeping a gratitude journal of all that you are grateful for can change your life. Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude, says by giving thanks for five gifts every day, in two months, you may not look at your life in the same way as you might now. She notes, “Gratitude is the most passionate transformative force in the cosmos.”
Enjoy life’s simple pleasures – Savor all life’s simple pleasures such as food, the beauty of nature, music, and great conversation. We attract even more goodness and abundance by noticing and acknowledging the goodness and abundance around us.
Write a thank you note – Is there someone you can thank in writing? You most likely will make his or her day. Some people who may be in need of some appreciation are waiters, teachers, the postman, a friend or family member, a coworker. Letters are great but there are other ways of saying thanks too. Watch how riders on a bus thanked Mukhtar, their bus driver on his birthday. His reaction is priceless.
Stop complaining for 21 Days – Join over 6 million people in more than 80 countries who have participated in the Complaint Free Challenge developed by Pastor Will Bowen of Christ Church Unity in Kansas City, MO. The challenge began when he asked his congregation to form a habit of gratitude by not complaining for 21 consecutive days, which scientists believe is the amount of days it takes to form a new habit. Then he passed out purple bracelets to each church member to remind them of their commitment to the plan. He said to them that if they slipped and complained during the 21 day period, then they were to move the bracelet to the other wrist.
Look at each day as a gift – If you haven’t seen the video, “A Good Day”, with Brother David Steindl-Rast, view it here. This is a must see to truly understand that to be alive, to enjoy another day, is a gift and as Brother David says, “the only appropriate response to this gift is gratefulness.”
Uncover a hidden opportunity – Hidden opportunities exist in trying times. Take a good look at how a recent life challenge can perhaps have a positive outcome or be the best thing that ever happened to you.
Be of service to the less fortunate – To be of service is the best way to give back for all the blessings you have been given. Extending ourselves to those who are less fortunate affirms our gratitude and, in turn, makes the world a better place.
Express thanks everyday – Let someone know how thankful you are to have him or her in your life. Whether it’s your Mom, Dad, sister, brother, friend, people love to be appreciated for who they are and nothing else. This gratitude goes along way and what better time to express it than during the holidays.
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What are you most thankful for in life? Please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!
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