Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson
On a scale of 1 – 10, how grateful would you say you feel right now for the people and situations in your life?
Is your appreciation intellectual (you think you’re grateful, so you must be), or do you feel it at your core?
If you’re not grateful for what you’ve got, you’ll never be grateful for what you get. I’m not sure who said that but if you think about it, it’s true.
Looking for gratitude in as many situations as you can helps to keep your spirits up; being unwilling to appreciate anything in your life victimises you.
Research shows that there are seven proven benefits to be gained from practising gratitude:
- An increase in, and generally improved, relationships; showing appreciation makes you more appealing to be around.
- Better physical health; being grateful makes you more likely to take care of yourself.
- Better psychological health; feeling grateful leads to improved emotional intelligence.
- Increased empathy and decreased aggression; being grateful makes you more sociable and less sociopath.
- Better sleep; keeping a gratitude journal has been shown to improve sleep.
- Greater self-esteem; being grateful for what you have reduces envy towards others.
- Enhanced mental strength; being grateful reduces stress and helps you to develop resilience.
I can attest to the power of gratitude in helping you become resilient. When I was traumatised and unable to function due to shock, I came across this statement by Tecumseh:
When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the morning light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
I repeated Tecumseh’s words to myself at least once a day; reminding myself to focus on what I could feel thankful for definitely kept me afloat and contributed to my recovery from PTSD.
And when you go to bed with a panic attack most nights, convinced that you’re having a heart attack and won’t wake up the following morning, you’re usually pretty grateful to hear the alarm going off!
Robert Emmons suggests ten ways to become more grateful:
- Start a gratitude journal; regularly appraising and recording the blessings in your life helps to make gratitude habitual.
- Recall bad times; now is better than then, right? And remember: This, too, shall pass.
- Practice Naikan, a meditative technique in which you ask: What have I received from ____? What have I given to ____? What troubles and difficulty have I caused?
- Say prayers of gratitude; you don’t have to be religious to pray.
- Heed your senses; the gift of life comes to us through what we see (the face of a loved one, a stunning sunset), hear (your favourite music, waves crashing on a beach), touch (a hug from your favourite person, the warm sun and soft breeze on your skin), smell (your favourite meal cooking, the salt-tang of sea air) and taste (eating your favourite meal, relishing a crisp, juicy, sweet apple).
- Have visual reminders; post-its, photos, whatever will prompt feelings of gratitude in you.
- Pledge to practice gratitude; write yourself a contract.
- Practice grateful behaviours; say ‘thank you’, smile!
- Be aware of the power of your words; monitor your self-talk and what you say about others.
- Think creatively; expand your capacity for gratitude. Make a game of finding things to appreciate.
You can’t fake embodied thankfulness, but if you want to live essentially, that is, the life for which you were born, it helps to do whatever is necessary to embrace gratitude. Then you will discover the truth in Stephen Richards’ assertion that: Gratitude… opens your eyes to the limitless potential of the universe, while dissatisfaction closes your eyes to it.
You choose; which is it to be?