Would you describe yourself as a grateful person? Do you always keep a running tape of how many things in your life are wonderful and how happy you are to have them? This could be material provisions, a job, friends, relationships, family etc…Or, do you tend to get rocked very easily by the ups and downs of your life and often overfocus on the hurdles? If so, it is time for an attitude adjustment big time!
According to Bob Emmons Ph.D., professor of psychology at the University of California, “Gratitude, the cardinal moral emotion that promotes cooperation and makes our society civil and kind, is the feeling of reverence for things that are given.”
Benefits of an attitude of gratitude
Studies show that gratitude impacts the physical, psychological and even social aspects of our well-being. Gratitude makes it possible to take a difficult situation in our life, our negative and turn it around for good.
- Lower blood pressure
- Stronger immune system
- Fewer aches and pains
- Better sleep
- Feeling less lonely or isolated
- More outgoing
- More forgiving
- More compassionate, generous, and helpful
- More alert, awake and alive
- More joyful
- More optimistic
Don’t wait to be grateful
If Thanksgiving is the only time of the year that you actually take the time to reflect on all the good in your life, it’s time to learn how to develop that grateful feeling all year long. When my kids were little, I had the great privilege of homeschooling them and one of the things we focused a lot on was gratitude. I had a little box of smooth stones that we called gratitude rocks. Each day the kids were drawn stones from the box and set one in front of them and tell us what they were grateful for. After the box was empty we would celebrate all the good things for a bit and gently place the rocks back in the box for another day. This was a wonderful way to start our day. Like my little homeschool lessons, we all need to make it a practice to let gratitude lead the way as we go into each day.
Here are some tips to help get you on the right course:
Keep a gratitude journal: As my kids grew up, we added a gratitude journal to their daily schedule. This has been a great experience for all of them. Two of my three daughters still journal today – a healthy practice for venting, releasing stress and cultivating an optimistic outlook.
Write letters: Pick one person weekly to write a note or letter to thank them for being a part of your life. Giving away gratitude like this is the best way to receive it yourself.
Make a thankful board: This practice is especially good for visual people. Place all sorts of reminders on a cork board that will help you remember what you are thankful for. This might include pictures, notes, postcards, trinkets etc… Whatever reminds you of happy things that you should be grateful for.
Give yourself reminders: I found that placing sticky reminder notes around my home was a great way to stay optimistic. Use brightly colored sticky paper and write optimistic notes to your self. Here are some suggestions:
- Today I choose to be happy
- This is a great day and I am so optimistic
- I am so grateful today
- Happy, happy, happy
- Smile, it is a wonderful day
Don’t be afraid to put yourself in difficult places where you need to stretch your gratitude muscles. This will help you learn to develop an undercurrent of gratitude that will carry you through even the most difficult times.
Be still and quiet
Sometimes it is hard to focus on being grateful when there is lots of static all around. Take time daily to sit and be quiet. I like to walk around my yard and garden and organize my happy thoughts. Find a place that works for you and make the time to practice being grateful.