How to start living with gratitude

“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.”

E.Tolle

How do you become emotionally and mentally more resilient in uncertain times like what we are experiencing now where we are all having to adopt to new way of managing our well-being. We all get uncomfortable with discomfort, fear and uncertainty. But good can emerge even from such situations and there is inherent value in working through discomfort, fear or uncertainty. Sometimes unpleasant emotions along the path have the ability to broaden our beliefs and perspectives. It is very natural to feel negative in situations that are less than ideal, but instead of feeding yourself negative thoughts for majority of time, you can shift your attitude to strengthen your resolve to get through them by practicing gratitude.

As Epictetus said, “He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.”, being grateful helps you gain different perspective on life and to cope with crisis situations. Although we count our blessings for one day over the course of an entire year, but in no time, our life takes over and overshadows the things that we were grateful for some time ago. As a result, we no longer appreciate what we have and focus much of our time and energy pursuing things we currently don’t have. This creates stress, anger and frustration. Whereas being grateful can help us to see best in each other and appreciate everything that life brings our way. Being thankful is one of the important tool that and to which we all have access to everyday in life.

What it means to be grateful?

Psychologists like Robert A. Emmons and McCullough suggest that gratitude as a two-step cognitive process. Recognising that one has obtained a positive outcome and the second step involves recognising that there is an external source for this positive outcome. Gratitude is the state of being grateful and appreciative of benefits received. To say we feel grateful is not to say everything in our lives is necessarily great and also it is not just a reaction to getting what you want, but it is more to do with living each and everyday with gratitude and appreciation where you constantly look for the good even in unpleasant situations.

Being grateful is also not to say that we are not concerned about our future, or that it means never thinking about setting goals or making changes, rather it means finding balance which helps to make us feel more optimistic and being aware of everything whether you initially perceive it as being good or bad. It is putting things in proper perspective and not to take for granted the many things you have and to be thankful for what you already have, while you perceive all that you want.

Why is it important ?

  • It shifts your focus from what you lack to things you already have and puts you in an ideal mindset where you can recognise your strengths and talents.
  • It helps you appreciate the journey and not fretting about the destination. Being focused on predetermined outcomes makes you miss the opportunities you might otherwise come across.
  • By being grateful, you can become more solution-oriented towards challenges and problems that come your way. You can focus on things well within your control.
  • It shifts your attention away from toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration, regret and envy where you ruminate less on your negative experiences, feelings and thoughts.
  • Gratitude reverses your priorities and as a result, you no longer feel stressed, anxious or fearful and improves your immune system.
  • It raises your happiness quotient regardless of outside circumstances and have strong interpersonal relationships than those who don’t practice it.
  • It encourages tolerance and acceptance. Being grateful encourages you to look for the good in others which creates positive work culture.
  • Gratitude makes you more empathetic and compassionate. It gives you a new perspective on what is important to you.

Gratitude improves your personal and professional productivity.

It’s great to set goals and aim to achieve something new, but being thankful for what has already happened can have a positive effect on your well-being and productivity. People who express gratitude for how they are treated in their personal lives and in the workplace are received warmly by others. At work, it  boosts positive mindset that  builds more engagement and trust. Encouraging gratitude in yourself and others helps you create a non-judgmental environment and  of mutual respect. Acknowledging and appreciating other people’s contributions can lead to new opportunities. When people are valued for what they do, it creates a successful work experience and builds better interpersonal relationships between team members that in turn helps them produce their best work. It helps your level of alertness and focus as you are no longer caught up in indulging in negative emotions that often cloud your judgment and makes you more creative, collaborative and less stressful.  A simple ‘thank you’ may suffice but often showing gratitude requires that you explain why. It helps the other person learn the reason why what they said or did was received positively. It can motivate additional acts of gratitude by everyone involved.

If you want to become more optimistic then you should practice more gratitude. But how does someone integrate the habit of gratitude into their life? It is easy to say be more grateful but what things can you do on a daily basis to bring about this transformation into your own life?

“The Law of Attraction states that like attracts like, when you’re grateful for what you already have, you will naturally attract more for which you can be grateful.” You can become more grateful and cultivate a persistent attitude of appreciation by taking an active role in choosing to live each and every day with more gratitude and appreciation. Here are some tips that can help you to integrate  gratitude into your everyday life.

Communicate it more often

It is common to point out problems but rare to highlight positives in others. If you want to practice more gratitude, take advantage of opportunities to express more of it to people in your personal or professional life that you value them. When someone does something nice for you say ‘thank you’ no matter how big or small the deed is and no matter who does the deed. Research shows that saying ‘thank you’ and expressing gratitude in general provides psychological benefits for both giver and receiver as it creates a sense of optimism. The more gratitude is expressed the better we feel about ourselves. It not only creates happiness but adds meaning to our lives.

When someone does something nice for you, engage in a kind act that makes life better for another person and let them know that you appreciate them. In workplaces, whether it is a person who helped you in a project or a coworker who went out of his way to get things done, or a person playing a specific role in achieving something, communicating and showing your appreciation not only improves their engagement but also encourages them to take responsibility of the work they do. You can build time into meetings to appreciate others, perhaps particularly for something accomplished that week. Encourage ‘thank you’ notes to help everyone to see the good work they participated in.

Schedule time every day

Writing gratitude journal about what we already have or grateful about has lot of mental health benefits. Psychological finding suggests that writing what we are grateful for improves our mental health and optimism. Study revealed that for ten weeks participants who wrote couple of sentences for which they are grateful recorded better moods, coping abilities, healthy behaviour and physical symptoms. Take some time to create a consistent journaling practice. Try spending some time every day to write down things that made you feel grateful throughout the day.

Writing gratitude journal as much as three times per week might actually have a greater impact on your happiness. The goal here is to remember a good event, experience, person or thing in your life. Taking time for greater reflection may generate a high level of positive emotions than just quickly listing or just doing in your head. Also, sometimes, there is a tendency to view the journaling as merely another task to be accomplished during the day. This is why journaling every few days or once per week could be more appropriate.

As you write, be as specific as possible. Elaborate on detail. Focus on people to whom you are grateful has more of an impact than focusing on things for which you are grateful. Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things rather than just talking up all the good things. Be grateful for the negative outcomes you avoided, escaped, prevented or turned into something positive. While journaling, ask yourself, What good things happened today? What am I grateful for? Why am I grateful for this? Who and what contributed to it? Why is this important to me? How does that make me feel? You might then consider all the elements that contributed for what you felt grateful for.

Practice appreciation

Observe and be aware of your negativity or complaining. Start acknowledging every emotion without judgment by being mindful of your thoughts and feelings when a negative situation arises. When you fully accept how things are without resistance, you won’t have a need to blame, complain or make excuses. We have a habit of only truly appreciating what we had while taking for granted what we have. Spend few minutes to appreciate the value of what you have and  positives of people in your life. Think about what you are taking for granted and this way you can shift your perspective towards to look at many things in others that you should be grateful for.

Appreciate everything for what it is and appreciate in the moment, that means being thankful for the smallest little things. Practice self-appreciation by acknowledging  your own positive qualities and achievements on a daily basis. It may not feel natural at first to focus on appreciating what you already have, but by spending some time everyday to be mindful of your positives, experiences and your achievements, you can make it a daily habit. Appreciation is not taking everything for granted but is to discover the value in what you already have, your good experiences and memories and good within yourself and others.

The greatest secret of life is to cultivate the ability to appreciate the things we have, not compare them.” – Lao Tse

Shift your perspective on problems

Try to see the silver lining in every situation. Problems and negative situations test our resolve and patience. Every problem can help you grow in some way. Shift your perspective when you face problems or obstacles  by asking yourself, ‘What can I learn from this?’ ‘How could this help me grow as a person?’ ‘What insights can I gather from this that can help me?’ ‘How can I prevent this from happening again?’ Your problems are only what you make them out to be. And it is only through an attitude of gratitude that you can really see your strengths and next steps you can take to work and grow through them.

 Finding things to appreciate about the problems will provide you with a greater level of confidence. If it is about dealing with hurtful situations, you can shift your perspective by reflecting on ‘How has the experience made me stronger?’ ‘What lessons has this person taught me about myself?’ To deal with criticism, ‘How can I  use this constructively to improve what and how I  do things?’ ‘What positive things have people taught me about myself?’ ‘How have I positively changed as a result of them being in my life?’ How have my mistakes positively shaped me? What is good about these difficulties I am working through? How has this strengthened me emotionally? Being grateful is to appreciate the value of every experience. It is about accepting the bad for what it is and appreciating the strength you derived from difficult and stressful experiences.

Focus on positive experiences

Avoid approaching daily gratitude with reactive mentality. Focus on building it a habit. Negative experiences tend to be more vivid than positive ones because as humans we are negativity biased. Rewiring your brain takes time. So, initially it is difficult to remember positives. You can train yourself to acknowledge positive experiences and memories. A study found that by regularly and deliberately focus on being grateful improves your mental and physical well-being. But by building a habit, focusing on being grateful for positive things in your life will feel more natural. Reflecting on how you are improving your ability to deal with your challenges will help you develop a positive  outlook.

Ask yourself, How often are you grateful for your moments in life? What are you grateful at this moment? What should you be grateful today? Revisit your entire day and recollect all good moments, no matter how small. Write down everything that you should feel grateful about others and yourself instead of complaining about what went wrong. By affirming past and present strengths, successes and potential, you can acknowledge the positive in life.

Questions for self-reflection

Assess your level of gratitude by asking yourself,

How grateful am I for the things and people in my life?

Am I thankful of the privileges and opportunities I have encountered in my life?

How can I make expressing gratitude to others a regular habit?

When was the last time I expressed gratitude to a colleague for a job well done or talents they brought to the team?

How often do I appreciate people in my life? Am I thankful for the things, big and small, in my life? Or do I take them for granted?

To conclude,

We all have the ability and opportunity to cultivate gratitude. In the routines and tasks of our life, it is easy to block out the details of the day, forgetting that there is always something to be thankful for. We grow in the direction of what we regularly focus on. So, instead of ruminating on uncertainties, aim for contentment by making gratitude a daily habit to go in the direction of positive mindset and well-being. The key is to get into the habit of reminding yourself what was good about today so to help you create a better tomorrow. Like making any habit, being consistent is the key to develop gratitude. The more you practice, the more you can tune into positive things. Once you become oriented towards being grateful, you will find that you begin to appreciate simple pleasures and things that you previously took for granted.

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