We have talked before on this blog about how downright magical gratitude can be for improving your quality of life. More than just a fuzzy feeling, researchers have linked gratitude to improved physical health and mental well-being. It’s associated with better sleep, more energy, less depression, and possibly even a lower risk of heart disease. Over the past twenty years, researchers have delved into the science of gratitude and discovered that this attribute has deep roots in our DNA. From biological advantages to enhanced social cohesion, gratitude appears to be a potent emotion with some serious physical, mental, and spiritual benefits.
So how do you turn on the tap to get more of this feel-good energy in your life?
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
Make a List
The practice of writing a gratitude list is a time-tested way to cultivate more gratitude. If you aren’t feeling much to be grateful for, putting pen to paper can help you get inspired. For many of us, we don’t actively feel gratitude until we set out and look for some. The trick is to stick with it – we can almost guarantee you’ll notice a positive shift in your feeling and outlook.
Intention-setting is a powerful practice to help you create positive habits and a vision for your life. Try beginning each day with a commitment to practicing gratitude. So many of us wake up with automatic thoughts of anxiety and scarcity—“I didn’t get enough sleep” or “I’m already running late!” When we turn our thoughts towards something positive first thing, it can set the tone for our day, calm us down and remind us that despite difficulties, life can still be good.
Showing someone your appreciation is a fantastic way to acknowledge others and feel more connected. Looking for people to be thankful to can shift your focus to what is going right in your day, and bonus—bring some good feelings to someone else in the process. Not only will we notice the myriad of ways people show up for us each day, we will be reminded of our interconnectedness, which is always a plus.
Try turning your attention to gratitude throughout your day – activities like a “gratitude walk,” or bringing a gratitude-focus to a meeting or event. Actively look for little things to appreciate, like a hot cup of coffee, the flowers in bloom, or a cool spring morning. These things are free and abundantly available to us. We don’t have to wait until things are perfect to feel grateful. Although this may seem overly simple or silly, exercising our gratitude muscle with small things helps it get stronger. It re-wires our brains to look for all the things that are going right in our world, instead of focusing on the unsatisfying things.
Check your Story
Often, the stories we tell ourselves about events have a huge influence on our reactions and moods. Next time you are in a situation that makes you bristle, check out your story. Instead of groaning about the rude cashier, look for something to be grateful for—perhaps appreciating how quickly they worked. When we commit to challenging our negative internal dialogues, we gain so much more freedom with our moods. So many of our thinking patterns are hard-wired. If you’ve focused on the negative for most of your life, it will take time to re-train your brain. Start small.
Turning gratitude into a habit is one of the easiest, most accessible ways to find deeper, more lasting satisfaction with life. Instead of waiting for the perfect life circumstances – like that dream job, more money, or the perfect partner– we can train ourselves to be thankful for the abundance already in our lives. If we make this a habit, the chances are when some future good fortune does arrive, we will actually be able to appreciate and enjoy it!