Looking for a way to become a happier person? Learn to employ the power of gratitude. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow. Join me as we discover 6 easy ways to enjoy the power of gratitude.
Nothing drags down the quality of your life than discontentment and lack of gratitude for what you have. When I find myself generally unhappy, easily annoyed or anxious, I can usually trace that back to a failure to be thankful in my present circumstance. There are to date countless research studies on the benefits of gratitude in both medical and psychological journals. When I began a serious daily meditation practice, I read that MRIs done on participants while they practiced meditation showed significant heightened activity in the pre-frontal cortex,and overall more brain activity. What really caught my attention was that when they closed their practice with gratitude that activity was further heightened; even if they simply asked themselves one question, “What am I grateful for right now“.
All of that had me interested to make that shift in my own life and I began slowly; adding a gratitude piece to the end of my meditation and mindfulness practices. I also tried to take a few moments at the end of the day to think of 5 things I was grateful for before going to sleep. As studies showed, benefits are slow to become evident, because gratitude is a skill that needs to be developed, but it pays off big time if you are committed to making it a part of your life on a daily basis. Here are some easy ways to begin incorporating gratitude into your life regularly:
1. Wake Up to Gratitude
Instead of hitting the snooze button or jumping right out of bed, take a few moments to be grateful for at least three things. It may be the good rest you received, the warmth of your bed on a cold morning, something fun you have planned that day or for your good health. Now I know, if you struggle with insomnia, or have a chronic illness, or had a rough night in general, it is hard to find something to be thankful for, but over time, you will find it easier. There were days when all I could think of was that things were no worse than the day before or that at least I made it through a hard night.
2. Say “Thank-you” More Often
Gratitude isn’t just for the “big” things in life. Learn to be thankful even in the small things of everyday. Be intentional about saying “thank-you” not only for things you are given or that are done for you, but also for others that are doing a good job. When was the last time you thanked the person who delivered your mail, or left THEM a note in your mailbox to thank them? When was the last time you took a few moments to express gratitude for a safe trip to work or for the wonderful hot water in your shower? Let’s face it, there are so many things we take for granted every day!
“It’s not happiness that brings us gratitude; it’s gratitude that brings us happiness”
3. Love Bigger
Take the time to say “I love you” to your husband, children, family and friends. Really take a moment to look them in the eye and tell them. Give hugs! Endorphins are released every time you hug someone; unless you are in the habit of hugging strangers, a hug is generally a welcome gesture of love and appreciation. Look for little ways to show someone you care, especially if you notice they are having a bad day. We have some elderly neighbors who live alone, and they are so thrilled to have anyone notice them or take a few moments to chat with them.
4. Embrace Challenges
Being grateful is a conscious decision; it really does not come naturally. When life turns difficult, gratitude is one of the first things to go. The tendency is toward negativity and complaining. But gratitude has the power to change the situation, by changing the way you see it. Challenging situations are the best at helping us to grow personally; in every situation we can find something positive to learn from it. Embracing challenges with gratitude not only provides personal growth, but opens your eyes to the possibilities within the difficulty. I would never have met my husband if my car hadn’t broken down; but at the time I was a single parent barely able to make ends meet, so gratitude wasn’t the first thing on my mind. But many of these stories in my own life have taught me to be grateful even in challenging times.
Volunteering is one of the best ways to cultivate gratitude. By helping others, often less fortunate than we are, we become more grateful for what we have. There are so many ways to volunteer from helping out at the local elementary school, church ministries. homeless shelter or women’s shelter, even the local library to more formal volunteer opportunities, like Meals on Wheels, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASAs) or Habitat for Humanity. Volunteering gets you outside your world and widens your perspective.
“Each day is a gift, not a given right”
6. Close Your Day with Gratitude
Just as you opened your day thinking of at least three things to be grateful for, end your day on the same note. Think of at least three things for which you are grateful, and 3 people for whom you are grateful that blessed your day today. Don’t rush through this, take time to visualize each thing, whether it be an event, or tangible item, and visualize the three people in the same way. Linger over the details of each blessing and allow gratitude to fill your mind and heart before drifting off to sleep. I can honestly say this is my favorite part of the day, and it truly lifts my spirits and calms my mind in preparation for rest. This is also a great way to close the day with your children as you tuck them in each night!
Growth Takes Time
Gratitude is no “cure-all”, but it is a hugely underutilized tool for improving quality of life and happiness. As you practice these 6 easy ways to enjoy the power of gratitude in your own life, there will be immediate benefits as you make the shift from complaining and discontentment to gratitude. However, over time the benefits will multiply; you will find other ways to be more grateful, it will become more natural for you to pursue and you will find more calm and contentment in your life. An unexpected benefit for me was improvement in relationships and having people comment on how much they enjoyed being around me! While I began making the shift to gratitude to learn to complain less, be more content and increase joy in my own life, I never expected it would improve my inter-personal relationships and ultimately effect others. Choosing gratitude unleashes he power of change in every area of your life. Why not start today?
“Gratitude is the best medicine. It heals your mind, your body and your spirit. And attracts more things to be grateful for.”