From stronger minds to healthier bodies, the benefits of gratitude practice have been on the radar of many scientists and philosophers for centuries.
Turns out, there is a whole lot we can gain from practicing the attitude of gratitude. And from my personal experience, it doesn’t take too much time or energy.
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We all know that we should “count our blessings” instead of seeing “the cup half empty“. But for most of us, it is easier said than done.
Negativity is so deeply imprinted in our brains, that fighting this beast takes a whole lot of conscious effort on our part.
Turns out that our prehistoric ancestors developed greater sensitivity to negativity for the purpose of their very survival¹. We tend to remember more the negative events, people, and experiences with the sole objective of avoiding the “danger” in the future.
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As much as this greatly served the pre-historic men, it is not entirely the case in our modern lives.
When we dwell too much on the morning traffic, a waiter with an attitude or the cloudy weather outside, it totally takes a toll on us. We feel miserable, angry and frustrated for longer than it’s healthy.
So what can we do?
Well, practicing gratitude may be the answer.
Positive effects of gratitude
There have been many studies conducted about the positive effects of gratitude on people’s lives. Just head over to the Psychology Today and you can find an endless amount of articles.
But these five positive effects of gratitude I’ve personally observed and experienced in my own life.
1. Gratitude helps us to gain (and sustain) a positive outlook on life
It has been said that a person cannot be grateful and sad at the same time. When I feel like negativity is starting to take over, I find reasons to be grateful at that very moment. As I said earlier, this takes a conscious effort at first but becomes more natural and easier over time.
2. Gratitude makes us more resilient
The attitude of gratitude is a helpful coping mechanism for difficult times. With gratitude, we become more resilient in stressful situations and are better at solving problems.
3. With gratitude, we focus on the present moment
If you tend to worry too much about the future like I do or think about the past events over and over again, give gratitude a try. It helps you to re-focus on here and now and it will help you to find peace.
4. Our relationships thrive
Feeling grateful for others in our lives helps us to see them in a new light. We become more loving, compassionate even and naturally bring more positivity into our interactions. Gratitude is contagious, too! Give more and you’ll get more in return.
5. We become kinder to ourselves
Let’s be honest. We are always looking for a way to increase our own happiness. And as much as gratitude makes us kinder to others, it benefits us just as much. Gratitude helps to fight the negative self-talk and self-doubts and we gain more confidence in return.
How to practice gratitude
1. Gratitude Journal
It is the obvious and most common way how to practice gratitude.
After I read the Gratitude diaries, I decided to start my own gratitude journal. It doesn’t require too much time or energy and the benefits are totally worth the little effort it takes.
When I first started, I would write three grateful sentences every morning.
But much of the science suggests that writing only once or twice a week into your gratitude journal might be actually more beneficial.
Once it becomes a chore and you start having a hard time coming up with so many positive things in your life, slow it down. Writing a gratitude journal is not supposed to be stressful!
To make your own gratitude journal, print out my free gratitude journal pages and start today!
2. Practice a new way of thinking
From my so far limited experience, gratitude is rather a state of mind. It is a frame of reference we use to evaluate events and people around us.
Let me give you an example.
Just last week my fairly new car broke down. My old self would have been totally devasted over this. I would be worried about all the little details that needed to be done to fix it, from towing to paying for repairs.
But I decided to see the whole situation from gratitude perspective.
It was Sunday afternoon, we were all safe and sound at home when I found out the car wouldn’t start. Just earlier that morning we all went grocery shopping. Had it happened during our outing, things would have been much worse. With two little kids, a trunk full of fresh groceries that needed to be kept cold, getting stranded somewhere on the freeway or out in town would cause me a big headache.
In the end, I was being grateful for being at home.
Bad things happen and always will. But the way we view them and handle them is our choice we need to make.
This is how to practice gratitude in everyday life.
The more you do it, the easier it gets.
And trust me I have only been on the gratitude journey for a few months and I am already seeing changes.
If you have a hard time remembering the attitude of gratitude try this.
Surround yourself with gratitude reminders. You can hang some inspiring prints around your house or office, get a gratitude bracelet, set a few quotes as your computer/phone background, and so on.
3. Express gratitude to others
It is another excellent way how to practice gratitude.
And it is what we call good manners too, right?
But this shouldn’t feel fake or forceful.
I have actually started doing this very naturally without much thought or planning involved. Especially expressing gratitude towards my husband.
Some things that he says or does would go overlooked without me paying any attention to them. But the more grateful attitude I have, the more I notice the little things he does.
Or the other day I had to call a customer service line and I was on the phone for what felt like an eternity. But the lady on the other side was extremely helpful to me and we solved everything I needed. I was very happy in the end and I did let her know how much I appreciated her patience and work.
Saying a sincere “thanks” to complete strangers can just make their day.
If you have a chance to find five-ten minutes for yourself, you might want to try a gratefulness meditation. You can even immerse yourself in prayer if that’s what you prefer.
Sitting down, calming our minds and bringing the good feelings of gratitude to the surface can set the pace for the rest of our day.
I strongly believe that we can all bring a bit more gratitude into our lives and reap the benefits of gratitude practice in one way or another. Choose anything that works for you at this time and place.