The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.
The best way to reap the benefits of gratitude is to notice new things you’re grateful for every day. Gratitude journaling works because it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. While you might always be thankful for your great family, just writing “I’m grateful for my family” week after week doesn’t keep your brain on alert for fresh grateful moments. Get specific by writing “Today my significant other…..” or “My friend invited me to the movie so I didn’t have to spend the evening alone.” And be sure to stretch yourself beyond the great stuff right in front of you. Opening your eyes to more of the world around you can deeply enhance your gratitude practice.
People aren’t hardwired to be grateful. And, like any skill worth having, gratitude requires practice.
As Geoffrey James suggests, it’s helpful to think of gratitude as an emotional muscle that will grow and strengthen with intentional use. We’ve all see those “5 days to amazing abs magazine articles.” I don’t know whether it works for abs, but it definitely works for gratitude.
In a stuck moment, it’s hard to see positive forces when obstacles are blaring and fears are looming. This is a good time to be grateful. Not grateful for what has us stuck, but appreciating what doesn’t. Gratitude helps us see our situation in a way that can lessen panic, and could open up our thinking to new solutions. Finding something to appreciate, can save us from absolute despair – in a way that abject complaining cannot.
Often times we compare ourselves to those who have more than we have – If you must, compare yourself to those who have less than you have. That gives you a proper perspective
After my accident I compared myself to everyone. While in the hospital, I would go to rehab and see all those who could do more than me. I would watch those that could sit up before I learned to do that, those that could feed themselves, those that could transfer themselves. I failed to think of all those that were in electric wheelchairs, or hooked up to breathing tubes. How about the ones that couldn’t talk without some sort of contraption? How about the ones that didn’t survive their accident at all?
One day while learning how to sit alone while in rehab, a thought came to me. “What if I didn’t compare myself to anyone at all? What if the only person I compared myself to was the person in the mirror? The person I was yesterday?” As I started to do that, I became increasingly aware of my small improvements everyday. I started to become much more grateful for the few things I could do, instead of all the things I couldn’t do.
One of the marvelous things about gratitude – it has no upper limit, as far as I can tell. You can be as grateful as you want to be. And what better time to start than this month?
Think of a person who has made a major difference in your life and whom you’ve never properly thanked. Compose a detailed letter to him or her that expresses your appreciation in concrete terms, then read it aloud, face-to-face. It’s very moving for the giver and the receiver. Be prepared for tears
And if that seems too daunting, you can least tell yourself –
Hey, it could always be worse. When your relatives force you to look at photos on their phones, be thankful they no longer have access to a slide projector. When your aunt expounds on politics, rejoice inwardly that she does not hold elected office. Instead of focusing on the dry, tasteless turkey on your plate, be grateful the six-hour roasting process killed any toxic bacteria.
Is that too much of a stretch? When all else fails, remember the Monty Python mantra of the Black Plague victim: “I’m not dead.” It’s all a matter of perspective.
Until next time BELIEVE you can fly!