For many of us, we spend the year thinking about what we want in our lives, and what's next. It isn't until the holiday season rolls around that we are reminded to think about what we are grateful for in our lives and how we can express our thoughts of gratitude. However, showing thanks for everything that you have shouldn't be relegated to once-a-year. According to Bob Emmons, Ph.D., and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, “gratitude, is the cardinal moral emotion that promotes cooperation and makes our society civil and kind, and is the feeling of reverence for things that are given.”
The great thing about gratitude is that it is something that can be learned, and it’s possible to cultivate a gratitude mindset that will stick with you throughout the year. Developing a gratitude mindset can help to lower levels of envy, depression, and anxiety as well as increase your overall optimism and well-being. In fact, recent research conducted at the University of California, Davis, found gratitude can give you the power to heal, gain more energy, and change lives.
The Benefits of Gratitude
It has been well documented that being grateful for the things that you have in your life and showing gratitude for those around you can impact not only your physical health but your psychological health as well. It has also been shown to have a positive impact on one's social aspect of their overall well-being. Positive psychology sees gratitude as a fundemental aspect of turning potential negatives into positives. Here are just some of the many benefits that you can gain when you adopt an attitude of gratitude.
- A stronger immune system
- Lowered blood pressure
- Reduction in common aches and pains
- Better quality of sleep and feel more rested upon awakening
- Decreased feelings of depression and anxiety
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More alert throughout the day
- More joy and pleasure
- More happiness and optimism
- Better coping skills
- Reduced negative emotions
- More compassionate, generous, and helpful toward others
- More forgiving
- More outgoing
- Reduced feelings of loneliness and isolation
- Improved relationships
- Increased self-worth
Showing gratitude throughout the year can prove to have enormous benefits on your quality of life. In fact, gratitude may be one of the most overlooked tools that you have access to every day. Cultivating gratitude doesn't cost you any money, and it doesn't take a lot of your time, but the benefits you receive from cultivating gratitude into your daily life are enormous.
Ways to Become More Grateful
It can be easy to get swept up in the fast lane and forget to stop and show your appreciation for the things in your life. Just like any new habit, showing gratitude on a regular basis will be something that you will have to get used to doing over time. You'll also have to train yourself to find the good things in your life when you are facing challenges and setbacks. The good news is that it is entirely possible.
Try to permit yourself to engage in thinking freely about those things in your life for which you are grateful. The more you're able to do this, the easier it will be to pull yourself out of the common problem of feeling sorry for yourself and convincing yourself that it is far easier to stay in an ungrateful mood than it would be to continue to cultivate your gratitude. To help you become more grateful today, here are eight ways to have more gratitude in your daily life.
When it comes to cultivating gratitude and developing an attitude of gratitude, you can’t afford to be picky. You shouldn’t save your gratitude for only the “big” things in life, like your health, or the roof over your head, or the new, higher paying position. To develop the habit of being grateful, you need to start appreciating everything in your life that is good. To do this, you need to come to the realization that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for in your life.
Even if it is as simple as appreciating that it didn’t rain at your child’s soccer game, or being thankful for waking up on time in the morning, don’t leave anything out when it comes to practicing your gratitude.
Find Gratitude in Your Challenges
When it comes to cultivating gratitude in your life, it can't only be about being thankful for all the positive experiences. In fact, it is sometimes helpful to think about the negative or stressful situations you're facing to help you really nail down what you have to be thankful for every day.
Jack Kornfield, a Western Buddhist master, recalls an exercise he did with a man who was taking care of his grandson while his son and daughter-in-law battled their drug addictions. Despite everything that the man had been through, he was still able to find gratitude for the amount of compassion that he had learned to show during a difficult situation and the impact that he was able to have on others.
To truly develop a habit of gratitude in your life you need to dig a litter deeper into your own past experiences and try to determine how they have helped to shape you into the person that you are today.
Mindfulness is the practice of bringing your attention to experiences that are occurring in the present moment. You can develop mindfulness through meditation and other training. When it comes to gratitude, developing mindfulness will help you focus on the present and not worry about the past or future and help you to show gratefulness for everything you have.
To practice mindfulness, sit down daily and think about five to ten things that you are grateful for in your life. The trick is, you need to clearly picture those things in your mind and silently sit with that feeling of gratitude. If you can do this every day, you can successfully rewire your brain to be more grateful naturally. This can lead to you starting to feel happier with your current situation after every session.
It only takes about eight weeks of practicing mindfulness and cultivating gratitude for your brain to start showing changed patterns that can lead to you developing greater empathy and happiness. Your mind is a potent tool, and training it toward gratitude is all part of making sure that the gratitude comes more easily as you practice.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
After you are done practicing mindfulness, end the session by writing down your positive thoughts in a gratitude journal. Keeping a journal of all the things that you have found to be grateful for, can help you keep track of and refer back to the positives in your life. This is especially helpful when you are facing difficulties and setbacks.
Write down all your positive thoughts to further focus your attention on the subject. While you are putting pen to paper, you have no choice but to consciously think about what you are writing without being bothered by other distracting and ungrateful thoughts.
You can journal every day after your mindfulness practice, or you can come back and journal on a regular weekly or monthly schedule. It’s really up to you how often you choose to write in your gratitude journal.
Volunteer Your Time
For many people, the key to cultivating gratitude in their life is to give back to others in the local community that may be less fortunate than them. Volunteering your time will not only make you more grateful for the things in your life that you may take for granted, but recent studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others can help to increase your own well-being, giving you the ability to have even more gratitude.
Martin Seligman, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, supports this theory through the research he’s conducted and published in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. He tested all kinds of different variables that are supposed to help improve our well-being and discovered that volunteering is the single most reliable way to increase your well-being momentarily. In other words: taking the time to help others who are less fortunate than you helps you!
Sometimes, when you are cultivating a habit of gratitude, it isn't enough to just to keep your appreciation to yourself. You can significantly increase your feelings of appreciation by expressing your appreciation of the people you care about most in your life.
A group that works to discover the science of happiness recently ran an experiment on gratitude. They asked the participants in the experiment to write a simple letter to someone in their life that they were grateful for. By itself, the simple exercise of writing a letter increase the participants' levels of happiness from two to four percent. However, when those same people made a phone call to the person they were grateful for and expressed their gratitude directly, their levels of happiness jumped from four to nineteen percent.
Not only does expressing your gratitude for someone in your life make their day a bit brighter, but the verbal acknowledgment of gratitude can also do wonders for increasing your own levels of happiness and gratitude in the long run. So, the next time you feel grateful for someone in your life, let them know you appreciate them and watch your happiness grow.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
If you are struggling to feel gratitude at the current moment, go and spend some time with your family and friends. While it will help you grow closer to them and help strengthen your relationships, it will also give you the opportunity to practice your acts of appreciation on the people that you care about the most.
If you are having trouble finding genuine ways to show your appreciation and gratitude to your friends and family, start small. For example, next time you are telling stories with your family and friends, make an effort to listen intently to others stories instead of focusing on what you are going to say when you have the chance to speak. Or, you can try to start a conversation with a difficult family member by complimenting their new hair-cut, or shoes.
Sharing your gratitude with those you love will help you become more comfortable with the practice of gratitude. This practice can then lead you to cultivate even more gratitude throughout your day-to-day life.
Improve Your Happiness in Other Areas of Your Life
There is no doubt that being grateful for what you have in your life can make you happy; but, it can also be said that being happy can make you feel more grateful. There are plenty of other ways that you can boost your mood, including exercising or participating in a hobby that you enjoy.
Once you are feeling the increased flow of endorphins, showing gratitude to the people and things in your life will be even easier to master. With increased happiness and appreciation, you'll be able to make list after list of everything that you are grateful for in your life.
When you can make being grateful a daily habit, you will be able to feel genuine joy and contentment in your life, no matter what you have or don’t have. Plus, being grateful will naturally attract more into your life that you can show gratitude toward. Learning how to show your appreciation daily for everything you have is one of the most emotional states that you will experience.
When you take the time to express a heartfelt appreciation for something that you've received or for someone in your life, it will boost your spirit, passion, and purpose. It will help to build your self-confidence and self-esteem and can give you the energy and motivation to work harder, and achieve greatness.
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