I am so blessed. I have a great husband, healthy child, a roof over my head and work. Add to that my extended family, the wonderful friends, incredible experiences and my own well being, and really I have so much to be grateful for.
Trouble is, like others so often it just doesn’t always feel ‘enough’. I could be living somewhere better; I could be earning more; we could have more security; my son could sleep better, eat better; I could look better; I could be doing more with my life…Most people at some point, if not regularly, experience a sense of dissatisfaction, the ‘not enough’ syndrome. Perhaps you catch yourself moaning, grumbling, or criticising? And when you do, isn’t there a part of you that says, ‘oh, enough already!’
Being in an attitude of gratitude on the other hand, can be one of the most rewarding approaches to life you can ever experience. We just need to remind ourselves to be in that way as often as we can.
Gratitude is about appreciating even the smallest things in life. Noticing and being aware of everything around you – being really present. It is about expressing thanks for what we have, for the gifts we receive – from good health to the food in our bellies. And when we practise an attitude of gratitude, we are effectively in a place of love, or grace. The information in a book called ‘Thanks’, by Dr Emmons, a psychologist who has been studying gratitude for many years, is based on research conducted around the world. In one study led by Dr Emmons, people who kept a gratitude journal for just three weeks measured 25% higher on life satisfaction afterwards. Key highlights were that people:
- exercised more;
- drank alcohol less;
- families and friends noticed that they were nicer to be around;
- tended to be more creative;
- bounced back more quickly from adversity;
- had a stronger immune system;
- and had better social relationships than those who didn’t practice gratitude.
He says in his book, “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.”
So cultivating and developing this attitude of gratitude is pretty good for us, and we even get to live longer.
How do we develop this way of being, of thinking then?
Well, according to several references from books to blogs and from my personal experience, there are at least 5 ways we can begin to increase our happiness levels through the practice of gratitude:
1. Gratitude bedtime story
When you get into bed, lie on your back (or however you’re comfortable), take three nice deep breaths and think of at least 5 things you can be thankful for in your day. They don’t have to be huge things either – sometimes, one is simply grateful that the trains ran on time, or a meeting went to plan, or your dinner turned out nice, your child made you laugh…
2. A Gratitude Journal
If you have a little time, for which you can be really grateful, then jot down the good things that have happened to you. For maximum benefit, write down your observations on a daily basis but even doing this intermittently will have benefits.
3. The Master Gratitude List
Your challenge is to write 100 things for which you are grateful. This is a good one to do when you’re feeling a bit down because it stretches you to think about what’s good in your life rather than focus on what isn’t. Keep adding to the list when you remember. Maybe pin it up somewhere you can see it often.
4. Gratitude quest
Think about the people for whom you are really grateful. Perhaps they’ve just been there whenever you needed someone to lean on. Or even closer to home, family, lover, child – who has been unwavering in their support for you. Or a boss who gave you your first break, a friend who told you ‘how it is’, a teacher who could see your potential. Write that list down and go on a quest to personally thank them for their contribution to you. Maybe it will take days, weeks or months – but set an intention to communicate and share your gratitude with them.
5. Walk with your mantra
I found this really helpful some years back, when I was feeling very low. I chose some words that resonated with me – some things I could be grateful for in the present – and as I walked, I would say my phrase to the rhythm of my paces. I didn’t have to do this all the time but ideally I would say it 9 times or more one walking session. For example: “I am well; I am loved; I am here to experience.” Choose something that works for you and walk as you talk (well, in your head at least).
And even saying grace, and by that I mean saying a few words of appreciation and thanks before you do something, can bring happiness to our being.
So before you tuck in to that delicious food, or take a plunge in the pool, or begin a game, or read a book – pause, give thanks and move in to what you do with joy.
“You simply will not be the same person two months from now after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.” — Sarah Ban Breathnach