Here in the United States it's the day before Thanksgiving, which is the perfect reminder to invite gratitude into your life. Gratitude is more than just giving thanks, however; it’s a quality of being and an emotion that you can feel deep in your heart. For something that you can practice in just minutes a day, gratitude also comes with a cascade of benefits that will improve nearly every aspect of your life.
Most of us say thank you every day. We say it to the checkout clerk at the grocery store, to our kids for putting their dishes away, and to the stranger holding the door open for us at the coffee shop. Most of these interactions are conditioned responses rather than sincere expressions of gratitude, which goes a lot deeper.
Don’t get me wrong, a simple thank you can have a powerful impact on both parties when genuine gratitude backs it up - and that’s the feeling I’m focusing on. Gratitude is an experience and emotion that comes with the conscious choice for awareness. It’s connected to other positive emotions like love, compassion, comfort, confidence, and humility and brings with it an overall sense of well-being.
The other day I listened to a podcast talking about complaining. It pointed out that when you complain, you not only aren’t solving the problem at hand, but are focusing on what’s not right in your life. It may be a complaint at the moment or a habitual thought pattern. Gratitude is the complete opposite of this, and can actually help you get unstuck from negative emotions and keep things in perspective.
Another benefit of gratitude that has been supported by several studies is that grateful people are more resilient and resistant to stress. That means when you’re going through difficulties in life, gratitude will help you see your strength and find a way to see beyond them. Gratitude helps you find the light at the end of the tunnel, whereas complaining does nothing but make the tunnel darker.
When you regularly invite gratitude into your life, you’ll feel a fullness that wasn’t there before. Study after study shows that a regular gratitude practice improves everything from your relationships to your health. You will:
A surprising benefit of gratitude is that you feel more in control of your life. You begin to understand that life is all about the moments lived, rather than continually trying to find the “good” or the “bad” moments. It’s an intentional way of looking at the world that will make all the ups and downs easier to navigate through. The more thankful you are for everything that is good in your life, the less you'll dwell on those aspects of your life that fall short.
The thing I love most about gratitude is that it’s a choice that’s completely up to you, and no one can take it away. The very act of embracing the positive and letting go of the negative can make you view your life with hope and optimism, which provides you with the enthusiasm to give your best in everything you do. Gratitude puts you on the path of self realization, allowing you to have contentment as a constant part of your life.
If you’re ready to invite gratitude into your life, all you need is a pen and paper. Choose a time of day, and write down five things you’re grateful for. That’s it! (Really.) You can actually get all those amazing benefits of gratitude by writing down five things a day. And please do take the time to write them down, because the act of writing helps to strengthen your gratitude.
I like to do this in the morning, though doing it at night can be a great way to wind down and go to sleep with positivity in your heart. So what do I write? Sometimes it’s as simple as the beautiful sunrise that day, or the delicious home-cooked meal we had the night before. I’ve come to realize that more often than not, though, it’s people and experiences that I’m grateful for.
If I'm going into some difficult emotions or I'm experiencing stress, sometimes I'll just stop myself and then write down five things I'm grateful for, however long it takes me, and then I'm able to come into the situation in a different frame of mind. Once you get into this practice for a while, you'll start looking for things to be grateful for during the day so you have something to write down later. It changes how you look at your life.
Make the commitment to invite gratitude into your life for the next five days, and then let me know how it goes.
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