The way you start and end your days matters. Do you take the time to slow down, get present in your life, and reflect on what you’re grateful for? Here’s how practicing gratitude will improve your life.
Why practicing gratitude is especially important now
In my forty years, I’ve never seen so much go down in one year. For many this year has been heavy and hard. It’s been stressful and challenging and has served as a reminder that we can’t control everything.
And that is why we should be practicing gratitude now more than ever. Developing a habit of gratitude isn’t just to revel in all the days that are great.
It’s especially for the days that aren’t. The ones that are tough and you aren’t sure how you’re going to make it through. Practicing gratitude when it’s challenging to find the good is exactly when you need it most.
It’s about creating a habit of being thankful for when times are good and for when they aren’t. Gratitude may be part of the light that walks you through the darkness and reminds you that not everything is bad.
Practicing gratitude is a way of celebrating the beautiful things that exist no matter what is going on in the world.
How practicing gratitude will improve your life
If you don’t have a gratitude practice yet, I want to encourage you to start one. There are various ways that practicing gratitude will improve your life.
Feelings follow thoughts
What you think about impacts how you feel. If a lot of your mental energy is given to difficult people and situations, it’s hard not to feel down.
Your feelings follow your thoughts, so if you want to feel better work on changing your thought life. What you focus on grows. Consider what you want to give power to (and what you don’t).
Practicing gratitude improves your life by helping to shift your perspective. How you think impacts how you feel and by intentionally thinking about the good, it can change your feelings too.
Taking things for granted
We all take some things for granted. I’ve thought about that a lot this year. There were quite a few things that I was used to being able to do and when I no longer could, I realized how much I had taken for granted.
It’s often no until things are taken from us that we truly realize what we have. Practicing gratitude is a way to force yourself to look for those things. It’s choosing to think about what you may be taking for granted and instead to feel grateful for it.
How do you think it would change your life if you stopped taking things for granted and instead appreciated all of those things?
In our social media driven world, it’s challenging not to compare. Scrolling through Instagram it would be easy to assume that people’s lives are as pretty as the curated version appears to be.
While there are a lot of advantages to having the technology we do, it can also come at a cost. If you feel sad, unworthy, or less happy about your life because of who you follow, it’s time to take a good hard look at that (and to unfollow some people).
Practicing gratitude helps you to look for what is already there in your life. It’s not about comparing your life to anyone else’s.
It isn’t about feeling superior or inferior. Gratitude is a simple practice of training your brain to celebrate what you already have.
Finding gratitude in unexpected places
In my journey to live more simply and intentionally, I was surprised by some of the places that I learned gratitude. The process of decluttering my home showed me how much I had to be grateful for.
I hadn’t expected that by sorting through my excess that was a burden for me, I would also be able to see it as a gift. My perspective changed as I saw how fortunate I was.
So often we tend to focus on the things we don’t have or assume that buying something new will increase happiness. But it turns out that stuff doesn’t make us happy, gratitude does.
You may find gratitude in unexpected places. When you look for what you can be grateful for, you never know what you might find.
The gratitude happiness connection
Scientific studies have shown that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with higher levels of happiness.
In one study they split the participants into three groups. One was asked to write each day about they were grateful for that happened that week. The second wrote about the things that had irritated them that week. And the third wrote about how the week’s events affected them (not directed to be negative or positive).
After 10 weeks, the group that had written about what they were grateful for were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. Interestingly, this same group also reported getting more exercise and having fewer doctor appointments than the group who wrote about their irritations.
There are other studies out there confirming this same thing that people who make a habit of gratitude are happier. Sounds good, doesn’t it?
Leading by example
Every person has someone in their life that they influence in some way. If you’re a parent of younger children and you’ve seen them mimic you, it’s clear you have influence.
I think it’s a fair assumption to say that no one wants to raise entitled children who are ungrateful. Teaching kids about gratitude early through activities can be helpful.
While doing gratitude crafts and activities are great, children will notice the example that you set. When you practice gratitude and your children see that, they’ll be more likely to do the same. Teach them to start their own gratitude habit and see how it changes them.
What practicing gratitude isn’t
Practicing gratitude is not ignoring the bad or hard things that happen in life. It’s not about pretending everything is great all the time.
Practicing gratitude isn’t about being fake or inauthentic in any way. Life can get tough and circumstances may not be at all what you want. It’s healthy to be real with the hurt, pain, sorrow, etc. you may be experiencing.
Practicing gratitude is not a cure all for everything. If you’re really struggling through something, talk to a trusted friend or counselor and get help. You can’t always will your way out of everything.
Practicing gratitude is about looking for the sometimes small good things in the midst of the tough stuff. It’s not about negating what’s hard. It is about embracing that there can still be beauty and finding hope in the middle of it.
How to start practicing gratitude
There are various ways to start practicing gratitude in your life. A really simple one is to start writing what you’re thankful for down in a notebook.
If you want some guidance in things you can write about and reflect on, I’ve created the Choosing Gratitude Journal.
It includes prompts, quotes, and templates for morning and evening gratitude. You can track your progress and have a record of the great things that have happened in your life.
For further details and to purchase, go here: https://thesimplicityhabit.vipmembervault.com/products/courses/view/1054987
Practicing gratitude won’t change everything in your life overnight, but it may start to change how you feel about them. As you work on being grateful for what you have, you may just be surprised at how it changes your life.
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