The secret to having it all is knowing that you already do.
Having gratitude for everything in your life is a choice, a practice, and an attitude. Although it is true that gratitude is the simple notion of being appreciative for those around us, it can be so much more than that. Scientists argue that it has a much deeper meaning than just being thankful for something, and psychologists analyse the effects that gratitude can have on our everyday lives.
Gratitude is important, because it allows us to look past how we treat ourselves, and focus on how others choose to treat us. By practicing gratitude, we are actually assessing how others live their lives as opposed to how we are living our own, and this can allow us to choose to live as kinder, and more generous human beings, because we want to have an effect on other people the same way other people have onto us. Put simply, gratitude means being appreciative for the goodwill of people around us, and the kindness of the universe for leading our lives down a certain path.
The benefits of being grateful.
Expressing gratitude in your life can have a whole host of different purposes and meanings. For some, practicing gratitude allows them to feel more grounded. In some ways, it is an act of mindfulness – living in the present and focusing on how you are feeling in response to a specific action. Feeling thankful as a response to somebody being kind to you is being mindful, so there is no wonder that people choose to be grateful as part of leading more mindful lives.
However, this isn’t the only reason for people choosing to practice gratitude in their lives. For some, it can help to build new social relations. If a stranger acts in a way of goodwill, being grateful towards them could lead to a new friendship, a new job, a new opportunity. For others, being grateful acts as an inward response. Feeling this way is a positive emotion – you are looking at the good in the situation in hand, and assessing how you can be thankful for what is happening in your life at this moment. Pointing this emotion inwards can have rewarding consequences, allowing us to have an improved mood, and possibly even an improved outlook on life. It can cause you to want to ‘seize the day’, and live life in the present moment, and make you want to be one of the people that is the reason for others feeling the way that you do right now.
“A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles”
With this in mind, numerous studies have been carried out regarding the positive effects of being grateful, with the results clearly proving that when people practice gratutude, they are more open, honest, agreeable, and balanced in their everyday life. It can allow people to convert from pessimism to optimism, to ‘seize the day’, and see the good in all situations that they come across. After all, there is always something to be thankful for. Being an optimist in itself has a multitude of benefits, including an increased motivation, improved stress management, and healthier relationships. Seeing the good in not only all situations, but also in all people, allows you to have the belief that the world can be a lovely place to be, despite what we may sometimes think.
Practicing gratitude is also great for mental health. It has now been scientifically proven that incorporating gratitude into your everyday life can alter your body’s chemistry, allowing you to feel more peaceful and calm in your body, as well as your mind. As an individual with anxiety, practicing gratitude allows me to see that not everything in life needs a response of worry and uncertainty. Being grateful about something is more beneficial to you, than hypothetically worrying about how it could go wrong. For example, if I was about to leave the house and it was raining, and it all of a sudden stopped, I would be worrying that the rain would start again, and I don’t have a coat or umbrella. By incorporating gratitude into my life, rather than worrying about something that might or might not happen, I instead become thankful that it has stopped raining, and instead choose to live in the moment. Personally, I have seen a multitude of benefits to gratitude – with helping to overcome my anxiety being just one of them.
A gratitude journal.
Another way I use gratitude is by keeping a gratitude journal. For this, I bought a simple moleskine notebook, that I decorate and be as creative with as I can be. (I also use this to practice self-care, so for me it is a win-win situation!) Concentrating on the good each day by writing it down, is the way that works best for me. This is personal preference, but there is no harm in giving it a go!
I section my notebook into 2 halves. In one half of my notebook I have a daily gratitude section. Here, I write down 3 good things every day that I am thankful for. This is such an easy task to do, and it literally takes me less than 5 minutes each day! When you sit down and really think about what you’ve been grateful for that day, you’d be surprised about how happy it can make you feel.
For the second section of my notebook, I use journal prompts. These are short phrases that require me to be a bit philosophical and thoughtful in my approach, that also require me to practice gratitude. This works wonders for me, because it forces me to think happier thoughts, and significantly reduces my anxiety. I don’t do this part of my notebook every day, so I leave this part for when I feel particularly overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious.
Here are some examples of the journal prompts that I have used in my gratitude journal.
- What is the main thing you’re grateful for today?
- Write about a little miracle you’ve experienced recently.
- Who are you most grateful for in your life? Why?
- What is something you are really proud of?
- Write about a time you did something for someone that made you feel happy.
- Write about the last time you felt overwhelmed with joy and happiness.
- What experiences have strengthened you?
- Write about an inanimate object that you are grateful for.
- Write about a painful experience that, looking back, you are grateful for.
- What is something you are really good at?
How would you answer some of these questions? Do you have a gratitude journal of your own? Please feel free to comment below.