Recently a friend told me about a very difficult period in her life. She fell into a depression from which she couldn’t pull herself out. During that time someone advised her to find three things for which she was thankful and to write them down. She decided to listen to that advise, and from then on she has “religiously” kept a gratitude journal. If you met her today, you would never imagine that she ever had a negative thought in her life. My friend is fulfilled; one of the happiest people I know. Incredible. Or not?
The Benefits of Gratitude
Expressing gratitude is one of the best ways to increase your happiness and improve your life, because gratitude reprograms your mind to focus on the positive. Hundreds of studies have shown us the benefits of gratitude. People who are grateful have a greater sense of purpose, see their lives as significant, have positive relationships, a positive disposition and experience greater levels of joy, satisfaction and optimism. You can’t be unhappy and thankful at the same time, nor have self-pity and gratitude, just like you can’t feel frustrated and thankful at the same time.
If that’s the case, why are so many people who aren’t grateful?
Many people aren’t grateful because they aren’t able to accept the role of God or others in their lives. They believe they have a right to all the benefits they have, and they take them for granted. Maybe it’s because the situations they find themselves in are bad, things haven’t turned out as they expected, or they have a lot of problems, like the saying goes life constantly gives them lemons. But I think the point of this saying is, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” So gratitude shouldn’t be a result of what happens to us, but an attitude we nurture as we put it into practice. Gratitude is a choice. In every situation we can find something for which to be grateful.
How do I incorporate gratitude into my life?
- First of all, start like my friend: Take a notebook and title it ‘Gratitude Journal’. Keep it next to your bed. In that journal write down every day three things for which you are grateful. It might be difficult in the beginning to find these things, but start simple. Write down that you’re grateful that you are breathing, that you have a roof over your head, that you had something to eat that day… Give thanks for your family, friends, a beautiful day…for a sunset, that someone made you laugh…, and you will see as you start that every day it will be easier to find things for which you are grateful.
- Give thanks for the people in your life. Give thanks for your parents who gave you life, give thanks for your spouse that made you lunch, give thanks for the worker that did their job…even if it is understood and normal for them to do so. Give thanks with a note, or a little gift and show the people in your life that you appreciate them and value what they do for you.
- Use the breaks life gives you. When the traffic light turns red, when there’s a jam on the road, when you’re stuck in a line, while you’re waiting at the doctor’s office…count the things for which you can be grateful, and remember the people for whom you can give thanks.
Try it out, and after some time you will notice that you are more satisfied and that you have a positive look on life.