My intention with this article is to spread awareness of the power of gratitude.
Many studies over the past decade have found that people who consciously count their blessings tend to be happier and less depressed.
Gratitude changed my life.
I used to constantly focus on all that was wrong in life, all that could go wrong
on why "I am not good enough yet" and on the things that went wrong in the past.
And I wondered why I felt so depressed and anxious.
One of my favorite quotes is, "Your focus determines your reality," because it's one of those obvious truths that I didn't think about when I was struggling.
And if what Ken Blanchard says is true, "What we give our attention to grows", then getting conscious of our focus is vital if we want to live a fulfilling life.
There is always an infinite amount of good or bad things to focus on..
What we go to, by default is what we have been practicing.
In my case, I had let my brain run wild. I wasn't running it.
Because that's what I was always practicing a lot of, it became my default.
It's pretty obvious why my reality wasn't what I wanted it to be.
I had spent years practicing, training my brain to focus on all that wasn't good.
And when I decided to stop being a victim and instead decided to take full responsibility for every aspect of my life the tide began to turn.
Surprisingly It only took a few months of gratitude practice to retrain my brain to begin focusing on the good things in life by default.
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”
- Zig Ziglar
HOW TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE
Most of us are sometimes grateful, but we can be stingy with our gratitude.
But why when It's abundant, accessible, and a precious fuel that nourishes our inner world?
If you cannot feel gratitude just yet, that's ok. Some people need to start with a lower emotion, especially if been unable to feel much emotion aka been in a state of apathy for a while.
If this is you, try taking the time to feel and express any emotions.
Maybe some anger, genuine sadness, frustration, and then find acceptance within.
Find someone safe that can help open you up and feel again, or use a journal and express some emotion onto paper in whatever way you like.
Once you begin feeling again, you can then start practicing the gratitude exercise below.
Think about something you are or can be deeply grateful for. Pick a person that means a lot to you and begin to journal about them in a journal.
Visualize them - feel them, hear them, see them in your mind.
Feel their essence. Hear their voice. See their smile.
Journal about the good times you've had together.
Think about how life would be without this person.
How glad are you to have them in your life?
Out of billions of people, you and this person have each other.
Feel gratitude for having them.
Appreciate them deeply.
Stay with that for as long as you can.
Feels great, right?
Did you know being grateful not only feels great but is one of the most important factors to a happy life?
Read this excerpt from this article by sciencedaily.com:
"Numerous studies show that expressing and experiencing gratitude increases life satisfaction, vitality, hope, and optimism. Moreover, it contributes to decreased levels of depression, anxiety, envy, and job-related stress, and burnout. Perhaps most intriguing is that people who experience and express gratitude have reported fewer symptoms of physical illness, more exercise, and better quality of sleep." Who wouldn't be grateful for that?
“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” - Melody Beattle
The Gratitude Challenge
The idea of this challenge is to reprogram the mind to focus on the good things.
We all have good and bad things to focus on, and we all have a choice on which one we focus on.
Some of us currently resonate with focusing on the negative things in our lives, and that is only because we have trained our minds to default to that.
If we do a daily exercise to train it the other way, we will eventually default to thinking positively, feeling gratitude, and projecting it.
I have read that it takes 21 days to change a habit, and I have also read that it takes 66 days.
Whatever it is I think it is worth sticking to for at least a month. I can guarantee you will notice a real difference after a month of giving it an honest effort.
The challenge is going to be simple, but it will bring powerful results.
But.. I don’t want you to focus on the results...
I just want you to focus on falling in love with and enjoying the daily process, and as you do, it will begin to spread into all areas of your life.
Here is what to do:
Keep a pen and a gratitude journal, notebook, or a piece of paper next to your bed.
The first thing you do every morning upon rising is to spend 10 minutes writing about 3-5 things you are grateful for in your life.
Do it daily for a month and watch the changes happen.
I personally now find myself often pondering how grateful I am for random things throughout my day. When I see a sunset, I am thankful for my eyes, when I look up at the stars at night, I am grateful for a chance to experience life as consciousness in this universe, when I feel my muscles ache after a gym session, I am grateful to have a capable body when I eat I am grateful to be able to nourish my body with nutritious food, I am grateful for the farmers and animals who sacrifice their time and life to give me the energy to live a great life. This makes me respect what I have and never take it for granted. I am left with a wonderful sense of peace and love within me.
“Enjoy the little things, for one day you look back and realise they were the big things."
- Robert Brault
Some of my examples below:
I am grateful to have woken up healthy and alive today.
I am grateful for the health of my loved ones.
I am grateful to have a bed to sleep in and a roof over my head.
I am grateful to have an abundance of food options available to me.
I am grateful to be earning money this week.
Feel free to go deeper..
I am grateful for today; this day is another day in a big world of opportunity. This day represents new beginnings, second chances, continued potential, and the opportunity to make new decisions to become the newest, happiest, most fulfilled version of myself. I am so very grateful for this day!
I am grateful to have my eyes and eyesight today; to be able to see my partner's smile, to be able to watch my wife smile and have fun, to be witness to the beauty of the world on my hike through nature today, to be able to drive myself to work, to be able to watch the movies I love.
I am so grateful for my partner being with me out of the billions of other people in this world. For her teaching me what unconditional love is. For being a light in my life when life gets dark, for smiling with me, for laughing with me. I am grateful for the way my partner looks after me, for the effort she makes, for supporting the life we have with her energy, and for helping create the life we love. I am grateful for my partner's beautiful nature and for being intelligent. I am grateful for the quality time we spend together when we do, as I know our time on this earth is limited, and quality time is precious to me. I am grateful I am so grateful for my partner!
Feel free to show your partner what you’re most grateful for, or better yet, both of you do the daily practice and then share. Remember! our lifetime is limited and precious. Don’t wait. Let’s do our best to make the most of this life, starting today.
Enjoy the journey,
“When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around.”
- Willie Nelson
A few articles and studies on how gratitude can bring positive change to one’s life:
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/10/151021170814.htm - Marriage/Relationships
https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/feeling-it/201406/13-ways-gratitude-will-significantly-improve-your-life - 13 ways gratitude can improve your life.