With Canadian Thanksgiving coming up this weekend, it’s a good time to start practicing living with an attitude of gratitude. Practicing gratitude can shift your focus from what your life may be lacking to the abundance of positives that are already present.
Research has shown that cultivating gratitude can actually make people happier, strengthen relationships, reduce stress levels, improve your health and contribute to general feelings of well-being and contentment.
Dr. Robert Emmons, a psychologist at the University of California and author of numerous books and papers on the subject, has found that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by as much as 25%.
In addition, his research has shown that those who practice gratitude tend to be more creative, bounce back more quickly from difficult situations and have a stronger immune system than those that don’t.
At TEDGlobal2013, Brother David Steindl-Rast pointed out that we all share the same essential goal: to be happy, and that gratitude provides the key to achieving this goal.
“We all know people who have lots of misfortunes that we ourselves would not want to have, and they are deeply happy, they radiate happiness,” he says. Why are they like this? “Because they are grateful. It is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.” – David Steindle-Rast
So now that we know living gratefully is good for our health, how exactly do we maintain this attitude in our everyday lives?
One simple tip is to keep a daily gratitude journal. Try writing down 5 things everyday in which you are grateful for.
By focusing on the little things on a daily basis, you’ll begin to increase your awareness and appreciation of just how much you have to be grateful for. It also creates a great resource for you to look back over on those days you need a boost of thankfulness.
Another very easy yet highly effective way to cultivate gratitude is to give at least one compliment daily. Compliments not only make the receiver feel valued and noticed, but the giver can also enjoy the positive connection they’ve created.
Compliments create bonds, build trust and help strengthen relationships. Whether you’re giving or receiving a complement, it just feels good. Enjoy it!
Like any skill, being grateful is something you need to practice daily and another effective method to working on it is to vow not to complain, criticize or gossip. Try starting with no complaints or negativity for 1 week.
You may notice how much time you were spending on negative thoughts and actions. Whether they were against yourself, your environment or others, let them go and focus on the good instead.
If you do find yourself in a bad situation, ask yourself what you can learn from it and how you can put it into perspective. If you can try to see the good along with the bad in every situation, it will be more difficult to complain and stay stuck in a negative mindset.
Other simple tips for a daily practice of gratitude include:
1. Daily meditation: start with just 5 minutes a day and try building it up to 20.
2. Living in the moment and not dwelling on the past.
3. Including words such as abundance, fortunate and positive in your daily vocabulary.
4. Using your senses to notice the little things such as enjoyable tastes and smells.
5. Going through the motions of gratitude: smile and say thank you often.
6. Remember the bad times to appreciate the good ones.
Dr. Emmons believes that practicing gratitude can truly change your life. He states that we can gain the most from gratitude when under crisis conditions and that gratitude has the power to heal, bring hope and help us cope with difficult times. He doesn’t suggest it will always come easy.
Being grateful is a choice. It’s an attitude that endures through the good and the bad, and although it may be difficult to achieve at times, it’s well worth the effort.
We’d love to know how you practice gratitude in your life. Post your tips to the comments and get the ball rolling by sharing one thing in your life that you’re grateful for!
Have a wonderful long weekend Canada!
-By Deryn Macey