“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow,” says self-help author, Melody Beattie.
Gratitude means appreciating life’s many gifts, acknowledging your blessings, and noticing simple pleasures. It means focusing on what you have instead of what you want.
Research has shown that amazing life improvements can result from the practice of gratitude. Gratitude produces positive emotions such as happiness, joy, and hope, and can strengthen relationships, improve health, reduce stress, and make us more resilient. However, this quality doesn’t come automatically. Like any worthwhile skill, gratitude requires practice.
Here are a few tips to get you started on becoming a master of gratitude:
Change Your Language
Have you noticed that unhappy, discontented people usually use negative language? Words and phrases such as stressed out, angry, burdened, bummed out, depressed, annoyed, disappointed, and afraid seem to spew out of their mouths – and their souls. Grateful, content, and upbeat people, on the other hand, tend to use positive words such as terrific, blessed, privileged, abundance, marvelous, beautiful, adventurous, awesome, fortunate, great, admirable, thrilling, and amazing.
Words are powerful. Simply changing the kind of language you use can help you embrace a grateful attitude. Of course, don’t stop there! As John F. Kennedy said, “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.”
List Your Blessings
Since negative attitudes affect our physical, spiritual, and mental well-being, why not practice gratitude for even the smallest everyday things we often take for granted? Take a personal inventory mentally of what you have and then take a moment from your day to fully appreciate all the gifts and blessings in your life. The list may include life itself, good health, friends, family, our bodies, our senses, nature, pets, a sunrise or sunset, your job, a good meal, the kindness of a stranger or for something as simple as a warm bed at night. You’ll find the list is endless.
Or better yet, take just a few moments each day and write down your blessings in a gratitude journal. The basic idea is to write down a list of three to ten things you are grateful for every day either first thing in the morning or at night before going to bed. You don’t need a fancy notebook or a computer program, but for you geeks out there, technology now offers us a Gratitude Journal for the iPhone and Gratitude Plus for the iPad. Both apps encourage you to write at least five things you can be thankful for each day with the opportunity to add photos and rate the day. This is a great way to help you develop the sustainable habit of being thankful.
If you want an even bigger challenge, try to write 50 things you can be grateful for – it may not be as hard as you think once you begin perceiving your day-to-day world with a sense of gratitude. Another popular exercise is to write a gratitude letter to someone that has made your life better in some way and exerted a positive influence in your life. If you’re a spiritual person, listing your blessings and giving thanks on a daily basis in prayer can be a powerful experience.
Use Gratitude for Perspective
You can even be grateful for life’s challenges for helping you to learn, grow, and become the person you are today. Use gratitude to put things in their proper perspective to help you appreciate life more fully. For example, when things don’t go your way, try asking yourself how you can benefit from the experience and what you can learn from the situation. Try to see the good even in unpleasant situations.
Try it! Once you become adapted to noticing things and people that inspire gratefulness in your heart, your life will significantly improve.
What are you grateful for? Leave a comment and let me know. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to my blog to receive more just like it. In my next blog, I’ll list some specific reasons baby boomers can feel grateful.