It’s easy to think gratitude is simply saying “thank you,” but in reality it means so much more than just that. To understand, try this: Think of the most surprising and best gift you’ve ever received. Perhaps the gift is a material one, or even something like the birth of your child. Now try to recall the associated, all-encompassing feeling that came along with that. Remember how “thank you” just didn’t feel strong enough to express your gratitude. That’s a pretty intense example, but remembering a moment like that illuminates some things that are important to associate with being grateful.
Gratitude shifts your focus from what you life lacks to the abundance that is already present. People tend to take for granted the good things they already have in their life, or may not even notice them because they’re too focused on what they don’t have or what they wish they had. Gratitude is the one emotion that is the antidote to what messes up our life. Have you ever had a moment that was sacred and special, or you’ve met someone you completely and utterly love? Take a minute, and think about it. The minute you change your thought process and train your brain to appreciate, it can quite literally change your life. I started practising gratitude, by writing down just 5 things in a morning that I was grateful for and when I let the power of gratitude roll over me, it helped stop my mind overrun with thoughts of what I didn’t have and I began to focus on what I did have on a daily basis. When things don’t quite go your way, ask yourself ‘What’s good about this?’, ‘What can I learn from this?’.
New research has shown that positive interaction with strangers leads to feeling more cheerful and increases your sense of belonging. I’ve always made a conscious effort to make sure I always say thank you. For example, saying thank you to a barista who’s made your coffee can lead to feeling happier just like saying thank you to a friend does. By practicing these positive habits, you develop a different way of thinking and moving through life, one in which I stopped taking for granted all the tiny good moments that we’re already part of it. It makes you feel more connected, even on the toughest days and can help you manage your stress better.
When you understand gratitude, it’s easy to see how powerful that emotion could be and how many areas of your life it can impact. There really is no limit to the impact but let’s cover the four major areas of life that it impacts.
As we all know, relationships play an important role in every person’s life. The support systems we build around us say a lot about our attitude and perspectives. We attract like minded people, so experiencing gratitude positively impacts these relationships. When you practice it more, those closest to you are better equipped to provide support to you in tough times and also strengthens that bond between two people. When someone reaches out to you in a time of need, the best support is to help them refocus their perspective towards being grateful which could make them feel more loved.
2. Career and life goals
Our relationships form the support system we build for ourselves. Our career and life goals are the direction that path leads toward. We need others to help us along that path, but ultimately, we choose which direction to walk in. So, how does gratitude help us move forward? One way is by shifting your perspective to realise how far you’ve already come. Focusing too much on the areas of your life in need of improvement can cast a shadow on your successes. Give yourself credit for conquering all obstacles along the way. Shifting that perspective is a fucking powerful thing. Instead of dreading the future and how far you have to go to reach your goal, you now feel empowered and excited about how capable you are. That’s the magic of gratitude – it transforms your vision. See the challenges you’ve overcome and the incredible qualities you posses that led you there and once you truly see those things, watch how your motivation increases.
3. Physical health
Let’s talk about the impact gratitude can have on our health. In a very direct sense, it impacts your physical health by improving major functions in your body like lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol and improving your sleep. Scientific studies have proven that gratitude works like a great medicine. Another way of it impacting your health is by changing your attitude and motivating you to make healthier choices. When you apply this to exercise or eating healthy, imagine the incredible positive impacts it can have on your health. As we’ve discussed earlier, it changes your perspective and helps you see what you’re capable of and how far you’ve come.
4. Mental health
The biggest way gratitude affects your life is by improving your mental health. As we all know, the state of your mental health directly impacts everything in your life. If you’re anxious, your life will be impacted by limiting behaviours. If you’re depressed, the same thing will occur. What you think influences what you feel, and what you feel influences what you do. This entire cycle is impacted by your attitude. Your actions mirror your feelings. Gratitude transforms this entire cycle by first changing your thoughts. ‘I don’t have enough’ becomes ‘I have so much’. ‘I am bitter and sad’ becomes ‘I am happy and at peace’. You validate your feelings with your behaviours. Experiencing gratitude can change your life from self-destructing mode to an empowered, free and happy mode.
You might be thinking how you can experience all this more frequently in your life. Like all good things, it takes practice to feel grateful for all the goodness in your life.
- Keep a gratitude journal
This is something I do now and is one of the most popular ways to practice gratitude daily. Habits form out of consistency. To train your brain to find the best in all possible situations, practice it every day. When or where is not important. Find a time that works for you and stick to it every day. Don’t keep what you’re grateful for in your head. Write it down.
- Practice mindfulness
Mindfulness is the act of experiencing the world exactly as it is in the present moment, without judgement. It gets you out of your head. It’s impossible to really feel grateful for the world around you if you’re stuck in your head. It can improve all the areas of your life mentioned before. How to do it? Start by practicing mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes every day. It’s best to do it when you wake up in the morning.
- Do something for others
Gratitude isn’t just about what it can do for you, it’s also a powerful thing to impact the other people in your life.When you practice gratitude, you’re more likely to be kind to others, and when you’re kind to others, you feel more gratitude. The cycle just keeps empowering itself over and over again. It could be as simple as opening the door for someone. Little acts of kindness go a long way.
- Surround yourself with love
Your environment plays a huge role in your thoughts and moods. When you’re surrounded by negativity, it takes a lot of energy and effort to remain positive. Make it a goal to find a positive community of people to be surrounded by. Take responsibility for the people you have in your life. We choose the attitudes we take on when we’re around negative people. If you’re in a situation when you’re surrounded by this, make it a point to be the anchor of positivity the situation needs. Empathise and show compassion and then offer a positive outlook.
Give it a try, even if you’re skeptical. Once you become oriented toward looking for things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple things that you previously took for granted. Start bringing gratitude to your experiences, instead of waiting for a positive experience in order to feel grateful. Bring a fresh perspective to your mind. Shit happens. Life has its ups and downs but you can choose to focus on the ‘good’ or the ‘bad’. When you practice gratitude, you realise that judgements are choices, not facts.