Often, it’s that full and happy feeling we get when things go really well in our lives.
It comes with a sense of peace and maybe with an idea that we finally did something to deserve the gift we’ve been given.
We’ve probably all experienced that kind of gratitude at some point in our life. But what if it could mean more than that for you?
What if gratitude became a perpetual, daily feeling for not just the big things?
There’s evidence to suggest that being grateful, despite your circumstances can improve every single area of your life, and actually brings in more things to be grateful for.
The universe listens when you express it, and responds by providing you with more things to be grateful for. That’s the magic of gratitude. And in this article, we’ll help you discover how to find it more often.
You’ll learn all about the ways in which it improves your life, and some practices and techniques to become (even) more grateful.
What will you learn?
What is gratitude?
It’s easy to think gratitude is simply saying “thank you,” but in reality it means so much more than just that.
To understand this, try this exercise:
Think of the most surprising and best gift you’ve ever received. Perhaps the gift is a material one, or even something like the birth of your child. Now try to recall the associated, all-encompassing feeling that came along with that. Remember how “thank you” just didn’t feel strong enough to express your gratitude.
That’s a pretty intense example, but remembering a moment like that illuminates some things that are important to associate with being grateful.
What does gratitude mean?
- Gratitude outshines all other emotions.
When you feel it, it often overpowers other feelings. Gratitude shines brighter.
- Humility accompanies gratitude.
Arrogance and pride are impossible feelings to have when you experience gratitude.
- It’s contagious.
When you feel gratitude for one thing in your life, it tends to overflow into other parts of your life, even places that you previously thought weren’t ‘good enough.’
To experience more gratitude, realize that it’s about more than just saying “thank you.”
Of course, the feeling aren’t always that intense, but for just a moment, experiencing it, even in its simplest form, can amplify positivity in your life.
Our society places a lot of importance on politeness, and that’s definitely not a bad thing.
But it can be confusing, because we make a habit of saying “thank you” even when we aren’t grateful.
Let’s not allow that habit to over-shine your ability to feel the power of gratitude.
In this article and you’ll learn about the ways in which gratitude can impact your life and to experience it as all-encompassing, peaceful and ever growing.
4 Benefits of gratitude
Now that you understand what gratitude really is, it’s easy to see how powerful that emotion could be and how many areas of your life it can impact.
There’s really no limit to that impact, but luckily, scientists and psychologists have spent a lot of time studying the effects.
Entire books are written on the subject of the benefits.
Let’s cover some positive impacts on four major areas of your life: relationships, career and life goals, physical health, and mental health:
Relationships play an important role in every person’s life.
The support systems we build around us say a lot about our attitudes and perspectives. We attract like minded people into our support circles, so experiencing gratitude positively impacts our relationships.
In one study, researchers found that gratitude not only attracts positive people into your life, it actually fosters the support you receive from others.
This, in turn, makes it easier to handle stressful situations.
In other words, when you practice it more, those closest to you are better equipped to provide support in tough times.
It’s no surprise that another study confirmed that encouraging gratitude in others strengthens that bond.
When someone reaches out to you in a time of need, the best support is to help them refocus their perspective towards being grateful. The study revealed that this action makes them feel more loved.
2. Career and Life Goals
Our relationships are the foundation for the path that we walk on. They form the support system we build to keep us standing on two feet.
Our career and life goals are the direction that path leads toward. We need others to help us along that path, but ultimately, we choose which direction to walk in. So, how does gratitude help us move forward down that road?
How can it help you reach your career and life goals?
One way gratitude can help you further your goals is by shifting your perspective to realize how far you’ve already come.
Focusing too much on the areas of your life in need of improvement, can cast a shadow on your successes.
Give yourself credit for tackling and conquering all obstacles along the way.
Shifting that perspective is magical.
Where you once dreaded the future and how far you have to go to reach your goal, you now feel empowered and excited about how capable you are.
That’s the magic of gratitude – it totally transforms your vision.
If you’re feeling stuck or far-behind in your life goals, try refocusing your vision on the past instead of the future.
See the challenges you’ve overcome and the incredible qualities you posses that led you here.
Once you truly see those things, watch how your motivation to continue increases.
3. Physical Health
Everything we’ve discussed so far might seem a little abstract. Being grateful will improve your relationships and your ability to reach your life goals, but sometimes those things don’t feel very concrete to us.
So let’s talk about the impact gratitude can have on your physical health.
In a very direct sense, it impacts your physical health by improving major functions in your body like lowering blood pressure, reducing cholesterol, improving your sleep and even helping you live longer.
It’s hard to say exactly how these functions operate, but we know one thing for certain – scientific studies have proven that gratitude works like a great medicine.
Another way it can impact your health is by changing your attitude and motivating you to make healthier choices. Like we discussed earlier, it changes your perspective and helps you see what you’re capable of and how far you’ve come.
When you apply this to exercise or eating healthy, just imagine the incredible positive impacts it can have on your health.
4. Mental Health
Finally, the biggest way gratitude affects your life is by improving your mental health.
Of course, the state of your mental health directly impacts everything in your life.
If you’re anxious, your life will be negatively impacted by limiting behaviors.
If you’re depressed, the same thing will occur.
What you think influences what you feel, and what you feel influences what you do.
This entire cycle is impacted by your attitude.
Negative thoughts leave you feeling discouraged, possibly angry, bitter and hopeless.
Positive thoughts make you feel hopeful, encouraged, optimistic and empowered.
Your actions mirror your feelings: seek out experiences that validate the way you feel and behave.
Gratitude transforms this entire cycle by first changing your thoughts.
“I don’t have enough” becomes “I have so much”.
“I am bitter and sad” becomes “I am so happy and at peace”.
Finally, you validate your feelings with your behaviors.
Experiencing gratitude can change your life from self-destructing mode to an empowered, free and happy mode.
If you suffer from any kind of anxiety or depression, gratitude is a powerful tool that could potentially completely eliminate those symptoms. Remember, gratitude is overpowering, and it shines bright. Often, the shadows of anxiety and depression aren’t even visible in the light of gratitude.
How to practice gratitude
By now you’re probably convinced that gratitude is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal to create a healthy, positive, happy and fulfilled life.
So the next step is to learn how to experience it more frequently in your life.
Like all good things, it takes practice and patience to feel grateful for all the goodness in your life.
Below, we discuss four powerful methods to make gratitude a consistently present attitude in your life. Practicing these four methods every day will overcome you with gratitude in no time at all!
Keep a gratitude journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is definitely the most popular way to practice gratitude daily.
Whether your ritual is simple or elaborate, get creative and have fun. There are no set instructions, just a few simple rules:
Do it every day.
Habits form out of consistency. To train your brain to find the best in all possible situations, practice it every day.
‘When’ or ‘where’ is not important.
Whether you are an AM or PM writer, find a time that works for you and stick to it every day.
Previously we talked about the difference between real gratitude and merely saying thank you.
This is where that knowledge comes in handy.
When you think about whatever you’re grateful for, take a moment – even if it really is just a moment – to feel that gratitude throughout your entire body. Make the experience as real as possible.
Just writing down what you’re grateful for, without experiencing it, defeats the purpose of the exercise.
Make it real and it will last.
Write it down.
This goes without saying since it is a journal after all, but we’re mentioning it just to stress the importance.
Don’t keep it in your head.
Give it power through your written word.
If you follow these simple rules, gratitude will begin to shape your life very quickly. You’ll start to feel a sense of duty to your journal, and that duty will open up your eyes to all of the wonderful things life has to offer that you can be grateful for.
For inspiration, watch this short video from Oprah Winfrey as she discusses the power her gratitude journal has in her life.
Another way to experience more gratitude in your life is by practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is the act of experiencing the world exactly as it is in the present moment, without judgment. It gets you out of your head.
It’s impossible to really feel grateful for the world around you if you’re stuck in your head.
Mindfulness by itself has a tremendous impact on your life.
Alone, it can improve all the areas of your life mentioned earlier. Added into a gratitude practice, the results are astounding. Practicing mindfulness and gratitude can make you a happier, more fulfilled person.
So, how do you do it?
You can start by practicing mindfulness meditation for 10 minutes every day.
It’s best to do this in the morning when you wake up because it sets you up for success throughout your day.
If that’s not possible, or you’re just really opposed to adding anything to your morning routine, you can try a mindfulness meditation in the evening before you go to bed.
Mindfulness meditations vary but, generally, encourage you to focus on the breath and then on the silence and stillness around you.
When you get in the habit of this, you realize that the silence and stillness is always there around you, and all the noise and clutter is something you add to your life. When you take it all away, peace is what’s left.
To get started, try the meditation below. In 20 minutes you’ll feel the benefits.
Do something kind for others
Gratitude isn’t just about what it can do for you, it’s also a powerful tool to impact the other people in your life.
The wonderful thing is, when you practice gratitude, you’re more likely to be kind to others, and when you are kind to others, you feel more gratitude.
The cycle just keeps empowering itself over and over again.
It’s never ending.
When you struggle to find something to be grateful for, consider doing something kind for another person.
There are endless opportunities to do something kind for someone.
All you have to do is look for them: Whether it’s simple like opening the door for someone or popping a quarter into an expired parking meter, little acts of kindness go a really long way.
Many times, if you’re struggling to find something to be grateful for, it is because your mood is altered for some reason.
Bad moods are chemical reactions in the brain. When you’re in a bad mood, your production of “feel good” chemicals is reduced, and it’s those feel-good chemicals that help us see things clearly.
Bad days or tough circumstances can lower your mood, making it difficult to practice gratitude.
When that happens, try kindness.
In fact, kindness is scientifically proven to release happy chemicals in your brain.
Those bad feelings and depression that come along with low mood, are easily cured with a little kindness.
Watch this very short, but informative video by Life Vest.
The video explains the neurological activity happening when an act of kindness is performed. Next time you’re feeling low, do something nice for someone else, and then allow that good mood to empower your feelings of gratitude.
Surround yourself with love
When we discussed the benefits of gratitude, we talked about how it can improve your personal relationships, what we didn’t discuss is how your personal relationships can impact your ability to practice gratitude.
Your environment plays a huge role in your thoughts and moods.
When you’re surrounded by negativity, it takes a lot of energy and effort to remain positive.
That negativity can come in many forms.
Maybe your co-workers at work constantly complain about their job, or perhaps your apartment complex is full of unhappy people that you interact with when you come home.
It’s not always easy to change your living situation or job, but it is easier than you think to surround yourself with love.
Make it a goal to find a positive community of people that you can befriend. It can be a church or organized club, or it can be as simple as a coffee shop with good vibes and good conversations.
Also, take responsibility for the people you have in your life.
We don’t choose our families, but we do choose the attitudes we take on when we’re around negative people.
If you are in a situation where you’re surrounded by negativity, make it a point to be the anchor of love that the situation needs.
Try refocusing a negative situation through compassion.
Empathize with and show compassion for complaining, negative people,, and then offer a positive outlook.
It’s important to do this with kindness and not as a way to offer unsolicited advice.
Gratitude, even when it’s tough
When all is going really well, it’s easy to practice gratitude, but that ease can disappear as soon as tragedy or misfortune strikes.
This is why it’s important to make gratitude a habit right now.
As a habit, it will form your future perspective to see through the lens of gratefulness instead of entitlement and disappointment.
We hope this article demonstrates that gratitude is a bright shining light that eliminates shadows and darkness.
If you being implementing a daily practice, right now – today – you will make it easier on yourself to find that light when things become difficult.
Things happen – they change and shift, and sometimes we see those shifts as “bad” or “good.”
When you practice gratitude, you realize that those judgments are choices and not facts.
You can choose to focus on the “good” or the “bad.”
When you choose to focus on the positives and be grateful for them, the universe responds by giving you more positive things.
This is the essential principle behind the Law of Attraction, and this principle is guided by gratitude.
Why would you expect to receive more when you’re not happy with what you’ve already been given?
Start practicing gratitude today and watch how the universe responds. See how those around you become more positive, and feel the shifts in your mood and motivation as you become happier, healthier and more fulfilled.
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