Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
~ Melody Beattie
If you want to add an exciting new dimension to your life and boost your overall health, well-being and happiness, the following may be just what you need.
There have been many university studies on the nature of gratitude and how it impacts your life in significant and positive ways. Here is an overview of some of the findings:
1. If you keep a gratitude journal, listing all the things you are grateful for in your life, you will find you have less to complain about, have a more optimistic view on things and experience fewer physical symptoms.
2. When you are attuned to all the good you have, you are more likely to progress toward your personal goals and achieve them.
3. If you practice gratitude exercises daily, you experience higher states of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy than those who focus on daily hassles or boring events.
4. Those who recognize and acknowledge personal gratitude are more likely to help others with personal problems and be even more grateful for the blessings in their lives.
5. When you focus on things for which you are grateful, you reduce your stress levels and reduce your need to compare yourself to others. Those that are financially better off than you will then inspire you and those who have less will remind you of how truly rich and lucky you are.
6. The more grateful you are, the less depressed you feel and the better you take care of yourself.
7. Grateful people have a stronger belief in the interconnectedness of all life, which is not at all related to any religious affiliation or faith.
By spending a few minutes each day reflecting on the positive aspects of your life, you develop a new and automatic habit that will give you a greater feeling of emotional well-being and life satisfaction. Ask yourself, “To what degree do I take these wonderful things in my life for granted?” and then keep these concrete reminders in your mind at all times. Think of it this way — there are tens of thousands of bad things you are not experiencing right now that you can say, thank you thank you for my gifts and blessings.
“If the only prayer you say in your whole life is “Thank you,” that would suffice” (Meister Eckhart).
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, write down 5 things you are grateful for. They can be big or small, but the more personal, the better.
Challenge yourself to find 5 NEW things each day. To do that, you will have to be specific. So instead of, “I’m grateful for my son,” perhaps you would write, “I’m grateful for the way my son smiled at me when I walked in the door today.” Anything that brings you love, joy, or peace is fair game.
Relationships are a common theme, especially ways that people show love and kindness to one another. Look to your successes as well, counting even small victories—like not eating ALL the Oreos at once. (If you’re smart, you can double dip by being thankful for the Oreos as well as your self-control!) Notice things in nature that make you smile— flowers in bloom or the brilliant colors of the sunset. Even modern conveniences can make the list. After all, who wants to live without toothpaste or the wonders of indoor plumbing? If you get stuck, consider this: What if you woke up tomorrow and all you had was what you had thanked God for today?
This practice will be even more powerful if you share your gratitude with others. Thank people directly for the good they’ve brought into your life. (They may then be grateful for your acknowledgement and knowing that what they did made a difference!)
You can also take the exercise one step further by identifying one frustration or challenge you are facing and asking the question: How might this be a blessing in disguise? Consider how the situation is making you a stronger person or can benefit you in some way. Sitting in traffic is a prime opportunity to cultivate patience (and maybe listen to music, call a loved one, or simply pray). A tough situation at work could be a chance to overcome your fear of confrontation or to practice accepting that which you cannot change. Even something as difficult as divorce may offer relief from an unloving spouse, a chance to reclaim your identity and independence, and focused one-on-one time with children. Finding the silver linings will remind you the sun is still shining.
Over the past 10 years, there has been a growing body of research to support practices such as these, linking gratitude to a greater sense of well-being and happiness. But the best way to find out is to try it for yourself!
Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: Experimental studies of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84, 377-389.
Seligman, M. E. P., Steen, T. T., Park, N., & Peterson, C. (2005). Positive psychology progress: Empirical validation of interventions. American Psychologist, 60(5), 410-421.
Dr. April Lok – www.doc-lok.com
Gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness are some of the most important traits that all valued people seem to have. Their virtues are not arguable, but are they always positive?
Probably one of the most important books ever written was published last year by Dr. Adam Grant. It is called “Givers and Takers.” It is well worth the read, but one of its most important tenets is how givers can be taken by takers when their “goodness” is motivated by fear of loss, need for harmony, or the desire to love and be loved above all else. The difference between people who have gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness that does not recognize the potential exploitation of others can be used for harm.
To protect yourself from expressing gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness with the likelihood of actually doing harm in the world, you must ask yourself some deep and profound questions:
1. Is my gratitude coming from a place of gratefulness for the simple things in life? Every breath you take, every moment of beauty, every kindness between people is a simple moment where life gives you more than you have necessarily earned. It is normal and legitimate to be grateful when you’ve done well in your job, or gotten your loved one to adore you. But the most profound things to be grateful for don’t usually require that you are in a reciprocal deal. Many people forget the most important things to be grateful for, because they focus on what life costs. It just takes a slight change in experience to know that there is so much to be grateful for that doesn’t.
2. Do I give to get or give to make the world a better place? Both are legitimate if the person on the other end of you understands where you are coming from. Giving to help others is the way people are successful in teams, families, or governments. Giving to make sure your own needs are met is an understandable motive, but will not keep the soup pot full.
3. Do I forgive people just to see myself as a good person, even if it condones behaviors that are harmful to me or others? We actually don’t have the power or right to condemn or condone. We do have the obligation and responsibility to move on from those who have hurt us and give their sentencing their own conflict. Forgiving automatically will attract those who feel the right to use and discard. Choose the recipients of your forgiveness carefully.
Once you have accepted that gratitude, generosity, and forgiveness are potentially healing or destructive acts, and know the difference, you can open your heart to using them freely to make the world a better place.
Dr. Randi Gunther – www.randigunther.com
Living life today is so full of up and downs, changes, disappointments, frustrations that it’s very easy to see life as being a victim of circumstance, complaining and blaming others for our misfortunes. Seeing the “glass as half empty” in this way, leaves one feeling very unhappy. What can be done to change this sad outlook on one’s life to one of happiness?
First of all, going from a negative perspective of complaining to a positive perspective of personal accountability and empowerment through self-examination may help one see the part he/she plays in the process that lead toward one’s needs not being met in some way. Taking personal responsibly for one’s actions cuts way down on the need to complain about things and empowers the person to remedy the situation without blaming. The less blaming that goes on, the more time there is to be grateful for what one has, leading to a much happier and fulfilled life.
Another way of achieving happiness in life is by showing appreciation to oneself and to others. Gratitude involves appreciating what one has on a personal level, not just focusing on what one doesn’t have. Expressing gratitude to oneself and others about beautiful wonders of nature, such as singing birds, pretty landscapes and all the other wonders of nature, good friends and family and good things to eat and drink. Telling others how much they are cared about and valued are all ways of expressing love and appreciation, namely gratitude.
“Giving something back” or “paying it forward” are wonderful ways of showing gratitude as a sincere acknowledgment or recognition that others have been there for us and we would like to be there for them in return. What a great feeling of happiness Oprah Winfrey generated many years ago by her “pay it forward” request of her listeners where others were to do something nice for someone. This created happiness for both the giver and the recipient all done out of gratitude. Amazing!
Ask yourself these questions everyday: “What am I grateful for today?” and “Who can I express my heartfelt appreciation to today?” See if your happiness level, and for those around you, rises by the end of a week. For those in a relationship, before you go to bed every night, tell your loved one what you appreciated about him/her during the day. End each day with a moment of gratitude and enjoy!
Dr. Joanne Wendt – www.drjoannewendt.com
We have all heard that gratitude is a good thing. But let’s face it, it can be hard to be grateful when things are not great. One of the most amazing things about gratitude, is how it can transform us from being a victim to being empowered.
When I was publicly dumped years ago by my famous fiancé, I cried the blues to anyone who would listen. And though I got almost everyone to agree he was a horrible human, this posture kept me sick, stuck and stagnant.
I finally sat down with the intention to get clear why my life was not working. I lit a candle and meditated. Once my mind relaxed, I asked this question: “WHY IS MY LIFE SO ROTTEN?”
Life changing wisdom dropped into my awareness: “Because you are looking at your past with regret, rather than facing your future with gratitude.” This message convinced me to stop telling my sad story and give gratitude a serious try.
Here are the 7 simple steps that became my daily practice:
1. I got a journal and EVERYDAY wrote down EVERYTHING I could think of to be grateful for.
2. I opened my mind to acknowledge and appreciate the “soul lessons” I was learning from the tough situations.
3. I began to claim what I appreciated about myself.
4. I committed to saying “thank you” to every person who offered a kindness, service or consideration of any kind.
5. I wrote letters to all of the people I loved and appreciated.
6. I started to express gratitude to the Universe for the beauty and abundance of this world.
7. I ended each day lighting a candle, counted my blessings, and for five minutes basked in the energy of appreciation.
Today I am vibrantly healthy, married to the man of my dreams, have a fulfilling career and great prosperity. Gratitude was the simple and powerful tool that put the brakes on my downward spiral and initiated my upward ascent.
Here is a simple truth: water always finds its own level. As we relax into the energy of gratitude we raise our vibration, which in turn helps us attract improved circumstances, positive opportunities, prosperity and synchronicity. The only thing we need for gratitude to create miracles in our lives, is open heart, an open mind and the willingness to give up our sad stories.
So, what are you grateful for?
Dr. Tammi Baliszewski – www.tammibphd.com
“When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.” – Tony Robbins
Try adding small thoughts and actions of gratitude to your daily life, and watch how life begins to change.
Take a moment during the day to focus inwardly on something that you are grateful for about yourself, your life, or the world around you. An excellent time for this might be before you sleep at night, because grateful thoughts can replace any anxious or negative thoughts about your day. This can even impact the quality and/or quantity of your sleep.
Gratitude benefits us most when it is practiced outwardly in the world. Think of gratitude as an opportunity to give a friend, a co-worker, your partner, or even a stranger, a “gift” with no strings attached.
Assess your motive for using gratitude. Be sure that you are not coming from a place of guilt (gratitude is not an apology), or a place of anger/self-indulgence (gratitude is not a way to exert power over others).
Gratitude is best given honestly, freely, and purposefully.
(Honestly): Don’t force yourself to feel grateful when you don’t. Invite yourself to determine something that you truly appreciate about a person’s character or about his/her actions.
(Freely): Allow yourself to share from your heart about how this thing (large or small) makes you feel. Showing gratitude is not an admission of weakness. It is a small act of kindness toward another. In a close relationship, gratitude is an intimate gift from you to your partner.
(Purposefully): Try describing how you feel with a true emotion word (such as, I feel “safe,” “appreciated,” “hopeful,” or “excited”), rather than with a thought-based statement (i.e. “it makes me ‘feel’ like you actually care,” or “it makes me ‘feel’ like you’re going to be more honest with me) because the latter places an expectation on future actions and makes it more difficult for others to empathize with your true feeling and needs.
Keep in mind that your objective is to uplift a person, to nurture the relationship space between the two of you, and to foster a more healthy world-view within yourself.
Gratitude is a powerful tool that can deepen connections, provide hope and joy, and invite inner peace.
Kristine Tye, M.A. LMFT – www.kristinemft.com
If you woke up tomorrow with only the things you’d given thanks for today, what would still be in your life?
This is a question I came upon in a blog post, and it got me thinking.
Being grateful has lots of benefits. Gratitude makes us happier. It reduces stress and improves relationships and health. Gratitude gives us perspective. We are less likely to feel stuck if we can see the good and the bad. Gratitude allows us to recognize what we have.
When we realize what we have, we are less likely to want more.
So it sounds great, right? What is the catch? Catch #1: We are not hardwired to be grateful. Catch #2: Being told, “be grateful” does not mean we suddenly feel grateful. In fact, it can makes us feel guilty for not feeling grateful!
Here is the good news: Gratitude is something we become better at through practice. Like a muscle, it strengthens every time we practice it. It is a pathway that deepens when we travel it.
There are three basic steps:
1. Recognizing what we are grateful for: Notice it!
2. Acknowledging what we are grateful for: Allow the recognition to solidify
3. Appreciating what we are grateful for: Reflect
An optional fourth step and one I highly recommend is to EMBODY the gratitude. Feel it! Let it resonate throughout your body. Put your hands on your heart. Raise your arms. Raise your gaze. Move into the feeling. Dance! Sing! Turn the corners of your mouth upward.
Feel grateful for your morning coffee; place your palms on the warm cup. Smell the aroma of the coffee. Breathe it in! Savor the flavor.
Challenge yourself to notice new, fresh reasons to be grateful each day. Gratitude for momentous occasions is easy. How about feeling grateful for the smile of a stranger, the sound of blue jays chirping, or for the sun’s warmth on your skin?
Find gratitude in the everyday. Nature is filled with reasons to feel gratitude. So are our relationships.
My family has a daily gratitude practice that I learned from a yoga teacher. Everyday, each of us identifies a funny moment, a beautiful moment, and a delicious moment. At the end of the day, we share with one another what each of these three moments were.
Being grateful opens us up for more opportunities to be grateful. Each of us chooses our own perspective.
Gratitude is one of the most direct routes to contentment and joy. Being grateful is a gift to yourself. Expressing it is a gift to others.
Gratitude is like fresh air: there is no such thing as too much of it.
Dr. Elayne Daniels – www.drelaynedaniels.com
In the blur of life, which consists of obligations, to-do lists, errands, work and more work, we can lose our focus on the things that truly matter. Sadly, when we lose that focus, our world gets colored in grey and we quickly move from a deep appreciation for the gifts we do have to feelings of apathy and monotony. Try the suggestions below to bring the color back to your world:
1. Start a gratitude journal – Once a day, take just a few minutes and jot down things that went well that day, people that made you smile, the gifts you have been given (in the form of emotional connection, friendship, financial security, partnership, family, health etc). This process is so vital because intentional thought is the only way to really take stock of what you do have when life gets you down. This active process has been proven to elevate mood and reignite relationships because of it’s powerful ability to reawaken your emotional vision. The journal offers the bonus of revisiting passages down the road when you need an extra boost!
2. Keep your perspective – When life is stressful, we tend to forget the beauty in our world, so learning how to turn it around is imperative. Angered when you receive your electric bill? This is a reminder that you have a home to light up. Frustrated that you have to go into work? Thank goodness you are gainfully employed. Annoyed when you have to fill up your gas tank? What a relief that you have transportation to get you where you need to go. You get the idea. Of course, there is no perfect remedy to combat our daily frustrations (which are real and human) but practicing perspective will reduce some of your daily ire and increase your gratitude for the life you do have.
Allison Cohen, M.A., MFT – www.lifeissuespsychotherapy.com
A deep heart-felt appreciation will give you a surprising strength and power to transform how you feel and think. Recent research has shown that gratitude helps us feel happier and less stressed as well as improving our physical health. It increases our resilience and ability to cope. It brings a feeling of hope, love, compassion, generosity and optimism. It is also a key component in most spiritual paths. Gratitude helps us connect more with others and rewires our brain towards positive emotions.
Some of the simple, small everyday elements we tend to take for granted in our life are actually the foundation of feeling thankful and increases feelings of support and kindness towards ourselves and others. Thanksgiving (which actually means expressing gratitude) holiday in America is a time to stop work and give thanks and celebrate together in family and communities.
It’s sometimes hard to feel appreciative if we are going through a tough time. Whenever I returned from travelling in polluted and poor countries, I tried to find a few moments every day to remember how grateful I am to be alive, to have clean water to drink and clean air to breathe.
Remember to be glad to hear the birds sing on a sunny day or enjoy a cool breeze on a hot day. Feel more satisfied by good food, friendships and by your work. Learn to focus on and value what you have rather than what you don’t have. Express gratitude to your friends, family and at work.
Spend a little time every day counting your blessings however little you feel you have. Be grateful for everything, even the difficult times because you learn from good and bad and gain strength by overcoming adversity. Beautiful roses also have thorns!
Find a gratitude prayer that warms your heart, say thank you more, practice not being judgemental, start a gratitude journal and remember to read it when you are feeling grumpy! In Process Oriented Psychology, we also explore why we don’t feel grateful. By not ignoring or marginalising this part of us, we can transform our negativity, resentment and complaining into authentic appreciation rather than just faking it!
‘Gratitude is the smile of love.’ Unknown.
Sherry Marshall, BSc, MAA – www.sydneyprocesscounselling.com.au
I was lunching with a friend recently who is being treated for multiple sclerosis. We were the homecoming king and queen our senior year of high school, and this was only the second time we had connected in eons.
He was telling me what it was like to lose the function of his body and mind when aggressive episodes of MS knock him flat. He described what it was like to live with the ongoing decrease of energy and control, knowing that the medications only slow the progress of the disease. And he related how he had decided to have a good attitude about it all rather than wallowing in self-pity. (He also noted that it took him a while to move beyond feeling sorry for himself and into an attitude of gratitude—it was definitely a process.)
I recently lost a very dear friend who had unexpectedly passed away in his sleep, so as we were laughing and thinking of things people complain about instead of being grateful, I said, “Did you wake up this morning?” My friend nodded his head and added, “And were you able to get out of bed when you woke up?”
When we take stock of our lives and our day-to-day existence, we have a lot to complain about. Things go wrong. Bad things happen to good people. Plans don’t work out. Sometimes we struggle to keep going. This is when it takes conscious effort to focus on what we’re grateful for, to notice what’s going right.
To help make gratitude a way of life so I’m not spreading negativity to myself and others, I like to start each morning by writing down 10 things I’m grateful for. No repeats. This makes me look more closely at all the little details of my life that are working and that are typically overlooked. And it’s a practice you can adopt as well, to remind yourself of all the miracles, large and small, that happen in your life on a daily basis.
Dr. Loral Lee Portenier – www.sacreddreamscoaching.com
Gratitude is one of the most powerful emotions I know; it can change how you think, feel and experience life. We all have negative emotions at times, but when we dwell in them they can become toxic. Anger, resentment and fear can become poisonous, but they can each be effectively neutralized by a single antidote: gratitude. It is a powerful catalyst that can help us move to a loving place of thankfulness for what is right, good, hopeful or beautiful. And when life is good, it can feel even better as a grateful heart and mind can shift our perceptions to include even more beauty, luck, or love. Learning to practice gratitude can help us heal from the past, manage daily life, and provide some protection against low moments to come.
Learning to practice gratitude has benefits we can feel in our hearts and actual physiological benefits for our minds and bodies. So, if you want to harness the power of gratitude in your life, you will need to commit to practicing it until it becomes a habit and part of the lens through which you see others, yourself and the world around you.
Here are a few ideas that can help you get started:
1. Keep a gratitude journal where you write down three things you’re grateful for each day – especially on days when you aren’t feeling grateful!
2. Practice meditation and mindfulness – it’s easier to recognize what we’re grateful for when we are fully in the present.
3. Set a gratitude alarm that goes off during the day and reminds you to take 1 minute to slow down, breathe and recognize something you’re grateful for.
4. Express your gratitude to others. It can be gratitude for something they have done, their presence in your life, or something completely unrelated.
5. Pay attention! As you practice gratitude, notice how it lowers your blood pressure, causes a warm comforting feeling to wash over you, or helps you feel more hopeful.
Being grateful does not mean that we are immune to tragedy, heartbreak, or a myriad of other experiences and emotions. But practicing gratitude helps us heal from these experiences and find reasons to keep striving, loving, and forgiving. It makes the journey through life more fulfilling and vastly more enjoyable!
Chris Adams Hill, LCSW – www.southvalleytherapy.com
We can live life with the perception of negativity (everything is “bad” or “wrong”) or with fear (“what if this or that happens”) or being a victim (blaming someone or something). The truth is our perception creates how we see our reality, therefore, not only does it take less overall energy to adopt a perspective of gratitude it will also improve the quality of your life.
The hardest part is in making the shift! When I was working on changing to a more positive outlook, I was vigilant in examining the flow of unconscious thoughts going through my head. With every negative, victim, or fearful thought, I changed it to “the good news is” and searched to find good in every situation or person that was challenging me. You will be amazed at how much effort it takes to tune into the stream of unconsciousness flowing through our minds but it is so worth it! With diligent practice you can shift seeing the world through negative eyes to more positive ones in just a few short weeks. It doesn’t take long at all and makes for a more peaceful life.
Another tool is to have gratitude for our hardships. One of my mentors said to me, “when you have gratitude for your lessons then you are getting somewhere.” This one is not easy either but if you have made the shift to a more positive outlook, it is much easier to do. Life is a series of lessons designed for our own healing and growth. Lessons are not easy! It is important to understand that EVERYTHING happens in our world to bring about deeper understanding and healing of ourselves. When we get that everything is perfect as it unfolds, it makes it much easier to breathe and then act vs. react. So when something happens or goes “wrong”, ask yourself how it is benefiting you in your overall growth or what your lesson
When we start seeing our lessons in all situations it opens the door to gratitude. Next you will notice life takes less energy because you are not holding onto negativity, anger, and resentment. Also, the exhaustion from riding the emotional roller coaster of life will subside and life will seem easier, the world will start looking brighter, feel friendlier and look more peaceful.
Cynthia Pickett, LCSW, LADC – www.cynthiapickett.com
Gratitude comes from within. It took me 40 years to figure this out. I aways had a case of “when I”s:
• When I get __________, I will be happy!
• When I go __________, I will be happy!
• When I have __________, I will be happy!
Then I spent 2 years in Lower Yukon, Alaska, rural Alaska, drop-you-off-in-a-plane kind of Alaska. Even if we had cars in the village, it wouldn’t matter because there is no place to go. It was here that I learned I didn’t need a 3500 square foot home, a brand new car, or a $6 cappuccino every morning. It was here that I learned that I am grateful for the simple things in life like hot water and the friendship of others. And it was here that I began my journey to self-healing, and realized that gratitude and happiness will never be sourced from something outside myself. It is something that starts from the inside, and radiates outward.
It is easy to lose your sense of gratitude in a world full of bustling cities, busy people, and technology that even tells you when to take a bathroom break. We forget to take time to appreciate what is around us, the people in our lives. When is the last time you stopped to take a breath and listen to the birds or smell the roses (literally)? When is the last time you reflected on who you are, where you life is going, and if you are truly, deep down, happy? Returning to a state of gratitude requires a conscious effort and a lot of reflection.
So how do you foster gratitude and happiness? The “big picture” key is to learn to accept and love yourself. If you come from a place of self-loathing and anger, the world is a negative place, and your existence will ultimately be unhappy. However, self love is hard, it’s a journey as we are our own worst critics and have adopted the unkind words of others. And there is no flicking of any kind of switch.
The easiest way to boost gratitude, appreciation, and your happiness is to keep a gratitude journal. Every night write down 5 things or events, even if they seem stupid and petty, that you are grateful for that day. And feel the gratitude, not just speak it. If it doesn’t resonate, chose something else. When you do this consistently, you start to focus on the positive. Your list grows. Your list expands from the materialistic items to more meaningful experiences. And it happens almost magically, if you do it correctly.
After 6 months of keeping a gratitude journal, I now thank the Universe for the “gifts” I receive each day. It is automatic and in the moment. I have learned to love my unique qualities, to love me for me. I found my inner happy.
Lore Earley, LMHC – www.loreearley.com
Gratitude is typically saved for the holidays- Valentine’s Day for our loved ones, Thanksgiving for food and family, Easter for spring and renewal. However, by practicing gratitude daily we allow ourselves to celebrate life more than a few times a year and therefore experience joy- everyday. So how do we celebrate life, daily?
To be grateful is about being in the moment or present. It means allowing yourself to be still. Finding the stillness and ability to be present can be a task within itself. The ‘practice’ of being grateful is just that- a ‘practice’.
It is fairly simple. Take a moment each day to list 5 things you are grateful for- just in your mind. I find setting a reminder or an accountability app very helpful in establishing the habit. Gratitude puts current situations and life into perspective. When we can see the good as well as the bad, it becomes more difficult to complain and remain stuck in the negative.
Creating this sense of awareness to the good in your life has a rippling effect. A ripple that becomes an ocean of possibility.
“Gratitude is not only the greatest of the virtues but the parent of all others.” – Cicero
Bonnie Bloom, M.A., MFTi – www.bonniebloom.me
“Curiosity and wonder, it drives us to explore, because we’re surrounded by things we can’t see.” That phrase comes from Louie Schwartzberg, whose amazing photography offers us a look at things we could never see with the naked eye.
Gratitude is something we cannot see with the naked eye and yet, without it, we often fail to truly appreciate the wonderful blessings that surround us. Actively practicing gratefulness is something I’ve begun later in life. And I think that it might be easier in your third segment of living because of all of the accumulated people and experiences.
That being said, I meet people my age who cannot seem to find anything to feel grateful for. So it is truly a choice to find the grateful component, when it is buried deep inside of the unlucky circumstance we find ourselves in. It takes a sort of training of the mind if it doesn’t come naturally. I began with a Gratitude Journal to train my mind to think in those terms. I spend time in silence, particularly in nature, just listening. I purposefully look for the “thank goodness for” when things seem to be in a downward spiral and that’s what I emphasize when I retell the story.
Linda McKenney, Personal Life Coach and Motivational Speaker – www.majokpersonalcoach.com
Gratitude can carry some negative baggage as a vague mental concept used by parents to manipulate children, as in, “You should be grateful for those Brussels sprouts! There are starving children in the world!” We can guilt ourselves this way as adults too, for example: “I have no room to complain; I should just be grateful. ” Thinking of gratitude in this way, whether consciously or not, can keep us from enjoying the full benefits of gratitude in our lives.
Recognizing that gratitude is indeed a practice, as in something that you can do and get better at, is probably the most important part of the process. Gratitude is not an ethereal notion that exists somewhere outside of yourself. Gratitude is inside of you, and it’s like a muscle that gets stronger the more you exercise it. So how do you identify and work that gratitude muscle?
Find out how you experience gratitude in your body. Think of something in your life you are really grateful for. It might be a loved one, the roof over your head, food in your fridge, hot running water, or the ability to see the beauty of the sunset. As you notice that you are experiencing gratitude, get curious about how it feels in your body. Is there opening and expansion in your chest, a sensation of tears welling behind your eyes, or does it show up somewhere else for you? Paying attention to the physical sensations of feeling grateful will help to set up your internal programming to experience more of it. Then, set your intention to notice what you are grateful for every day, and you will find gratitude more and more present in your life.
Wendy Dingee, MS, LCPC, LCADC, BCC – www.livewellnevada.com
We hear a lot about the benefits of being in the moment, in the now. This idea is the heart of mindfulness, a practice that is also linked to happiness and wellbeing. However, I’d like to tell you about a gratitude practice which moves out of the present moment. I call it “beyond the now” and it’s about allowing yourself to dwell in the past and in the future.
The first part of the exercise is to close your eyes and imagine something wonderful that you’ve already experienced. It might have been a fabulous vacation or holiday, or perhaps a special evening out or even a quiet moment at home. If you have photographs of the event, you might even want to look at them to remind yourself of the happy details. Imagine how that moment smelled, sounded, tasted, felt. Building a sense of nostalgic reverie reminds you of the good times in your life. Be grateful that you had this terrific experience, a treasure within you.
The second part of the exercise is to close your eyes and imagine something that you’re looking forward to. It could be an upcoming vacation or holiday or it might be lunch with a friend or a scheduled quiet day. If you don’t have something big on the horizon, think about simple pleasures, such as looking forward to getting into bed at the end of the day. Whatever it is, summon the activity to mind and build a feeling of eager anticipation. Imagine how it will smell, sound, taste, feel. Building a sense of anticipation builds a sense of hope. Be grateful that you have something special to anticipate.
When you intentionally add the past and the future to the present, as touchstones for gratitude, you amplify your sense of wonder and wellbeing. So, practice being in the now and definitely . . . practice being beyond the now!
Ashley Davis Bush, LICSW – www.ashleydavisbush.com
As a survivor of childhood sex abuse, gratitude has never come naturally. Even when my life seemed perfect on the outside, there were intense emotions stirring on the inside making it difficult to enjoy even the most pleasurable experiences. I believed that they would not last. I believed that if I experienced true joy in those moments, they would be ripped away from me. I knew I needed to make a conscious effort to be grateful.
So, I started simple. I started a gratitude journal. I know it sounds cliché, but just listing five items in the journal each night has made a difference. It isn’t dramatically helpful when I am in a good mood. I can make a long gratitude list when I am happy. But when I am full of anger and sadness, and have no interest in a gratitude journal, I get the most out of it. Now that I have been keeping a journal for several years, I can focus my awareness on gratitude in every day moments. When life is good, I can acknowledge that there are blessings in my life. And when I acknowledge the beauty of those blessings, the beauty grows.
Elisabeth Corey, MSW – www.beatingtrauma.com