How to Practice Gratitude and Why
Practicing gratitude is one of the most powerful habits we can incorporate into our lives. The recent media focus on being grateful is not just fluff. Gratitude can really change your life and has profound effects on overall happiness and well-being.
Many people only focus on the negative aspects in their lives. They are programmed to see their glass as being half empty as opposed to half-full. In a world replete with stress, distractions, materialism and social stigma, it is easy to forget how to be grateful for all the good that pervades our lives. Rather than being grateful for all that we have, many of us tend to focus on the negative. This often has a devastating effect.
Think about it. When you have a problem and you experience pain, sadness or discomfort, you would do anything to alleviate or eradicate the suffering. However, when you do not have a problem, are you grateful and do you appreciate it? For many people, the answer is no. Problems, pain, suffering, and other negative aspects of their lives grab their attention more resoundingly than the positive does. It is almost as if they are programmed to look out for the bad rather than the good. They notice the thunderstorms more than they notice the beautiful blue skies, even if it does not storm often.
What Exactly Does it Mean to Have Gratitude?
Gratitude is the conscious effort to acknowledge the good in our lives. It is the recognition that there are many positive and wonderful things in the world. It involves focusing on the gifts we have received and enjoy. This does not mean that our lives are always perfect or we don’t experience problems, setbacks or sadness. It merely shifts our focus from the negative to the positive. When we concentrate on the good, we are also forced to detect the source of this goodness and acknowledge it. This goodness can come from ourselves in the way of our personalities and personal achievements, teaching us to grateful for who we are. Very often, however, this goodness comes from other people and from the world at large. It teaches us to be humble and thankful for all the gifts we have received. It illustrates our dependence on others and the world in general.
So why practice gratitude in the first place? You may be surprised to learn that there are numerous advantages and benefits:
Mental and Psychological Advantages
- More optimism
- More positivity
- Increased happiness
- Higher alertness and awareness
- More motivation
- Less anger and aggression
- Higher self-esteem
- Reduced depression
- Reduced stress
- Increased tolerance
Physical and Physiological Advantages
- Better sleep habits and patterns
- Reduced focus on pain
- Reduced blood pressure
- Stronger immunity against disease and sickness
- More energy
- Increased empathy and compassion
- Reduced feelings of loneliness
- Increased generosity and helpfulness
- More adventurous and willing to try new things
- Better relationships
- Increased popularity
How to Practice Gratitude
The reason it is good to practice gratitude regularly is because it builds awareness of the good in our lives. However, because of all the distractions and responsibilities associated with a typical day, it is easy to forget this. That is why gratitude needs to be a habit that we incorporate into our daily lives.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal: Maintaining a gratitude journal is one of the best ways to practice gratitude. Each day, simply write down 3-5 things that you are grateful for. They can be simple things such as the nice dinner you ate, the affection displayed by your spouse, or the beautiful sunshine you witnessed. Writing things down has a reinforcing effect because it forces us to think and be mindful. There even are apps that you can use for this purpose.
Nightly Gratitude: Another way to practice gratitude is to simply recall 3-5 things that you are grateful each night before you go to bed. Just like in your gratitude journal, you can give thanks for both big and small things. It is a great way to keep you aware and grateful.
Expressing Gratitude to Others: Another great way to encourage gratefulness and to practice gratitude is to make a conscious effort to express it to others often. You can thank 1 or more people you encounter during the course of your day. It could be your relatives, friends, co-workers, or the person who served you at the fast food restaurant or at the bank. You can express it vocally or even with a small note or gift.
Refrain From Complaining: The opposite of being grateful and practicing gratitude is complaining. It is impossible to be grateful and complain about things at the same time. Therefore, if you are complaining, you know that you are not living with the spirit of gratitude. That is why it is important to refrain from complaining about things. Try to be aware when you complain and change that negativity into gratitude.
Watch Inspiring Videos: A wonderful way to cultivate gratitude is to watch uplifting and inspirational documentaries or videos that remind you how fortunate you are. This is a perfect way to augment your other gratitude practices and rituals.
Acts of Kindness: There are not many things that can help cultivate gratitude the way performing random acts of kindness can. Each day, look out for opportunities to help others or make them happy. It could be simple such as opening a door for someone, letting someone else have the choice parking spot, or buying someone a cup of coffee. It makes the other person and you feel good.
Visual Gratitude Reminders: Another good way to encourage gratitude is to place visual reminders around so that you see them every day. You can print out your favorite gratitude quotations or a list of things you are grateful for. Place them in spots that are impossible to miss (on your fridge, on your desk, on your wall, etc) and you will constantly be reminded to be grateful. You can even select a visual reminder for your phone.
Volunteering: Volunteering to help the needy and less fortunate is powerful and is a great way to cultivate gratitude. When we help others in need, we frequently come to realize that our plight is not as bad as we thought and there are a lot of others who are worse off. It reminds us that we have blessings that we ought to be grateful for.
Gratitude Before meals: Since most of us eat at least 3 times per day, mealtimes offer us good opportunity to stop and give thanks for the food we are about to eat. Some people like to say Grace, but it does not have to be religious. The important thing is to be aware and thankful.
Practicing gratitude regularly might seem elementary, but it is extremely powerful and effective. Try it for a few week and you will be amazed at how your life will change. I am grateful that i was able to write this article for you.