“It is not happy people who are thankful; it is thankful people who are happy.” – Unknown
Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; it is the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
The benefits of practicing gratitude are almost endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to be in the moment and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for, experience more positive emotions, feel more satisfied, sleep better and express more compassion and kindness.
Gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for momentous occasions either. It can also mean you’re thankful for something as simple as a delicious meal or the ability to catch up with someone whom you haven’t seen for a while.
Have an attitude of gratitude. Be grateful for what you already have. If you don’t feel grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you would be happy with more?
When you are thankful and look at what you do have (rather than what you don’t have), you are sending positive thoughts and vibes into the universe, and more positive things, opportunities and circumstances will come your way.
When we’re going through a difficult experience, gratitude helps us see our situation in a way that can lessen panic and can open up our thinking to new, more appropriate solutions.
Unfortunately, gratitude is not a natural skill, so like any skill worth having, gratitude requires practice.
Start a Gratitude Journal (If You Haven’t Already)
Each day, remind yourself what you have to be grateful for by writing three to five things down in a gratitude journal (they don’t need to be big things; they can be as simple as ‘the sun was shining’, ‘my daughter made me a hand-made card today’ or ‘caught up with a friend for coffee today’). By recording your gratefulness each day, it helps reinforce how thankful you are. While your life may be difficult at the moment, there is always something to be thankful for that will help you deal with struggles and disappointments.
Turn Your Thinking Around
People who are grateful for what they have in their lives don’t have it easier than you. In fact, many who practice gratitude regularly are people who have had incredibly difficult things happen to them, and they understand that it isn’t the situation that’s the issue; instead, it’s how you view the situation and deal with it that makes all the difference.
By being in the moment, in the ‘here and now’, you are preventing your brain from worrying about the future, about the ‘what ifs’, or focusing on past hurts and disappointments. This is one way of being thankful as you are immersing yourself in the present moment and acknowledging the beauty around you.
Meditation is another useful way of dealing with mental health issues or a general sense of discomfort or unease in your life. It can also help encourage practicing thankfulness and gratitude. To meditate, go somewhere quiet (for 15 minutes), seat yourself comfortably and start to take deep breaths. Focus on your breath. When random thoughts pop into your head, acknowledge them and let them go. If you find that you’ve drifted away from the meditation exercise, focus on your breathing again.
Develop a Healthy Lifestyle
Being thankful in daily life, despite the little ‘hiccups of life’, can greatly help make you healthy and keep you healthy. Give thankfulness a boost, though, by developing a healthy lifestyle for yourself by getting enough sleep, drinking plenty of water and eating in a way that fosters your well-being.
Being thankful isn’t just about telling people you are thankful. It’s also about giving back to your community, family and friends. Do something for the people in your life who have helped you. When they need an extra hand, be of assistance.
When someone does something nice for you, whatever that may be, focus on how someone tried to bring something good into your life. Someone gave up their precious time, skills or money and so on to do something for you. This focus fosters a feeling of gratitude that you can then pass on to other people through your actions, words and deeds.
Use the words ‘thank you’ often. For example, if you’re on the bus on the way to work, you could start by saying (in your head), ‘Thank you for the food that I ate this morning, for the nice hot shower that relaxed and refreshed me, for the sunshine, for the rain that watered the trees overnight, for the bus that is driving me to work and will get me there on time’ and so on. You should also remember to thank the people who assist you or provide a service to you throughout the day, that is, the barista who made your coffee, the person who held the door open for you, the customer service person who assisted you with your enquiry. Thanking people spreads an atmosphere of gratitude that will extend to others and make their day as well.
By practicing gratitude (saying it out loud), you can ease anger, depression, anxiety and other health problems as you are unable to be in both a ‘flourishing state’ and a ‘suffering state’ at the same time.
Admittedly, it can sometimes be really hard to be thankful in life, like when we experience hardships, anger, heartbreak, loss or frustration, because you certainly don’t feel grateful in those moments. It is in these times, however, when it is most important to foster gratitude as this will help you get through the hard times rather than being in a ‘suffering state’.
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