What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is feeling and expressing appreciation for the things in your life. From relationships, to work, and even to the natural beauty that surrounds us, there is plenty to be grateful for.
I like to think of gratitude as getting the most out of what is around you. If you can practice giving thanks and appreciating what you do have, then you will experience more positive emotions from these often taken for granted aspects of our lives.
There really is a richness in our everyday life, no matter what your circumstance and no matter where you live. Gratitude is about bringing this richness out and feeling and understanding what truly is there in front of you.
Gratitude is also a natural offshoot of mindfulness and of becoming more aware. It can help us feel more positive emotions daily and stop reacting to events and start responding to them. Science shows that practicing gratitude can increase feelings of happiness and even lessen depression.
So do you want to become richer emotionally and live a happier life?
Then let’s get started understanding how to practice gratitude.
Why We Need Gratitude
Gratitude is really about perspective and shaping our conscious reality.
If you are reading this article, then chances are you have been lucky enough to be born in an English speaking country or wealthy enough to be educated in a second language. If this is the case, then already you should be thankful for the wealth of the nation you were born into.
So many people in developing or war-torn countries do not have access to middle class jobs that give excess income. Many of them do not have adequate housing or medical care. Most of them truly have no way forward due to a lack of opportunities.
Yet many of us take for granted the fact that we have a roof over our head. We take for granted that we have a healthy body or that don’t have to face violence in our neighborhoods. This is not a reality for so many people in world.
Despite this, we often get lost comparing our lives to others or focusing on what we are lacking.
We focus on our friend who makes more money than we do. We focus on how our coworker is taller and seems to have a much easier time meeting women. If you feed your mind jealous thoughts and ideas of inadequacy, then your mental state will reflect this.
Your reality is created from the thoughts and content that you feed it. This is why some people so adamantly follow and support authoritarian regimes or figures.
This is why you can’t understand that Uncle who loves Trump. Trump might seem crazy to you, but some people are getting information from Fox News and other sources. They talk to their friends who agree that their way of life is under attack. They are not crazy. They are simply getting different information and their conscious reality is shaped from this. They are quite literally living in different realities.
The human mind can’t focus on and take in everything. You have an active choice in making and shaping your reality.
Now I don’t mean feeding yourself positivity to the point of delusion. The world is full of poverty, struggle, violence, and hate. The world is full of exploitative companies and people who need to be held accountable.
Yet, if you solely focus on that you will likely be miserable, feel powerless, and your mental health will suffer.
You don’t need to follow the news cycle 24-hours a day. You don’t need to feel accountability for a crime that is happening in a different country. You don’t need to focus on the things you don’t have the power to change.
Further, you should use some of your precious mental bandwidth to focus on the small, good things you have.
Eckhart Tolle was able to be completely content and genuinely happy while going through a stint of homelessness. This was due to the power of being present and appreciating what is directly in front of him. Even though he was lacking in other aspects of his life, he was able to draw forth the richness of what was around him. He was practicing gratitude.
While truly becoming present is a harder goal to achieve, beginning to practice gratitude is not. You can start with only 5 minutes and you can start today.
How to Practice Gratitude
Practicing gratitude is a skill you can learn and should be grouped into mental wellness exercises you can and should be doing. If you exercise your body to stay healthy, why don’t you exercise you mind?
Read up on some other examples of mental well-being exercises that can help you be healthier and live a more enriched life here.
You don’t need to do this everyday, and truly anything you can commit to is a great place to start.
Start a Gratitude Journal
Writing an idea or thought down can give it more weight and meaning. In the case of a gratitude journal, writing down your appreciative thoughts does just that. It makes the fleeting and intangible thoughts of appreciation you have something you can read and touch.
It really is incredibly simple to start. You just need a notebook and a pen. Start by writing three things you are thankful today. It could be the nice spring weather, a compliment a coworker gave you, or simply the fact that you woke up healthy today.
Writing these little points of gratitude down can help give some important perspective.
If you are healthy, safe, and have a roof of your head then you are truly richer than you could possibly believe. If you have a family that respects and loves you, then you are lucky.
Yet, so many people don’t feel rich. They feel inadequate and lacking.
Writing out and thinking about how lucky you are to be healthy is the start to building up those neural pathways to help you keep that perspective in your daily life. It’s equivalent to doing your mental pushups.
So let’s start. If you have a notebook then write out three things that you are grateful for today. This could only take 5 minutes or less.
Feel free to stop reading this post and go do that. Taking immediate action will help you toward building a habit of practicing gratitude and I would be ecstatic if you started now.
Practicing gratitude has been linked to feeling happier and less depressed and some researchers think that practicing gratitude is the most efficient approach to improving mental well-being.
Finding a Gratitude Buddy
Creating a habit alone can be challenging sometimes. In this case, I absolutely recommend finding a gratitude buddy. This can be someone with which you can be accountable with and promise to share three things you are grateful for every week.
You could create a weekly ritual such as grateful coffee time every Sunday morning. Just have fun with it! This type of friendship can strengthen your relationship with your friend and can help you both feel more grounded, secure, and happy!
I have found that most people are excited about starting a fun project with friends. We are social creatures and people love feeling more connected especially in an increasingly digital world. I truly believe that sharing gratitude is one of the most fulfilling things to share.
So reach out! You can absolutely think of at least one person who would be happy to try to regularly share sentiments of gratitude with you. And if not then you can reach out on social media or even dating apps to find someone. This could be the start of a great connection!
Look for the Good in the Bad
Finding something good in a bad situation can be difficult to do.
Often it is a natural reaction to want to distance ourselves from a difficult situation. We want to point fingers and blame it for ruining our weekend or making our lives more difficult than other’s.
Instead we can challenge ourselves to find on good thing about the situation. This can be powerful to create shades of grey in an otherwise black and white situation. In can change the narrative and give you power over how it makes you feel.
Often we can’t truly know if a situation is truly bad or not. Perhaps getting fired from your job leads you to find a more fulfilling position with better pay. Maybe breaking up with your girlfriend will lead you to period of self-discovery and ultimately help you find the love of your life.
So don’t react so quickly! And take the time and care to find that shred of positivity in a seemingly bad situation. Your problems might change from looming and threatening to simply another situation in your life.
Further if want a real challenge, then you can do the same for a problematic person in your life. Sometimes someone who is rude or demeaning in our life can cause us a lot of frustration. If applying normal boundaries don’t work or you are unable to distance yourself from them, then finding something positive about the situation can help you take control.
It doesn’t have to even be about the person. Maybe the relationship dynamic is helping teach you to stand up for yourself in group situations. Maybe the difficult relationship helped you become more resilient as a person. The narrative is in your control. Again just don’t blatantly lie to yourself. Being dishonest with yourself is never a good thing to do.
Practicing gratitude is one of the best choices you can make for your mental health. Research shows gratitude can increase feelings of happiness and even lessen depression. It also is considered to be the most time effective ways to increase feelings of well-being.
So there are some very good reasons for us to practice mindfulness!
The three methods I discussed here were using a gratitude journal, having a gratitude buddy, and deliberately finding the good in bad situations.
These are all powerful techniques in their own right. My favorite method is keeping a gratitude buddy because this is the most fun! However, starting a gratitude journal is probably the easiest to start. Just start with whatever you can commit to 😊
The thoughts and ideas that you entertain in your mind truly create the reality that you live in. So take care in the thoughts that you have and the neural pathways that you build!
And as always keep an eye for more articles from Becoming a Person. We will dive deeper into how your thoughts create your reality in upcoming posts.