Gratefulness can be hard to practice. Gratitude isn’t something that happens when good things come, it is something that needs to be cultivated.
I get so distracted by the many things going on in the world, the mundane day to day tasks that sometimes I completely lose sight of the wonderful things all around me. I have clean water (and it comes right from the faucet), I have a roof over my head, lungs to breathe fresh air, a bible I can read and faith I can share freely without fear of persecution, incredible friends and family – so many things! I am extremely grateful for the incredible blessings in my life.
Having gratitude is not a fleeting feeling, it is something that is practiced every day of the year regardless of the circumstances or holidays, it is an action that is practiced daily. But how do you cultivate gratitude when you simply do not feel thankful or when you’re going through hard times?
When things are good, it is easy to show gratitude. Nancy Irwin, a clinical psychologist in Los Angeles says that it’s when you’re feeling the least grateful that a gratitude practice becomes essential. When you are depressed, anxious, or going through a crisis, dwelling on those feelings only pulls you down deeper. It’s gratitude and a positive attitude that will help pull you out of the negative thinking. Being grateful during these times will put a positive filter on your negative thoughts.
Here are some simple ways you can practice gratitude even when you don’t ‘feel’ grateful:
Start a Gratitude Journal
It may be simple, but our thoughts really change our behavior. Putting those thoughts into writing is even more powerful. Start out your day by writing down a few things you are grateful for. It can seem like a chore at first, but the more you think about the things you are grateful for, the easier it will be to have a brighter outlook and help you keep going.
Express Your Gratitude to Others
You can increase your gratitude by simply expressing gratitude to the people around you. Not only will you make someone else’s day, but it will also will increase your own levels of gratitude. Call someone or write a letter to a loved one to express your gratitude.
Spend Time with Loved Ones
Spending time with family and friends always makes us feel good. What better way to increase your outlook than being with the people you love? Take it a step further and express your gratitude verbally to the loved ones around you.
Go Through the Motions
I’m not suggesting you “fake it until you make it” but going through grateful motions will trigger grateful emotions. Smile, say thank you, write letters, make phone calls, do something that makes you happy. Steer clear of negative media, negative people, or destructive environments. Surround yourself with positivity, read a good book, listen to uplifting music – and smile while doing it!
When you are giving of your time or resources, it takes you outside of yourself. It is a good reminder to appreciate and have gratitude for the people in our lives, our circumstances, and the things we have. Volunteering and giving are ways we can show gratitude to others for what they’ve done or how they are helping others, and it will make you feel good in the process.
People who practice gratitude are happier. Erik Barker says “It’s not that happy people are grateful, it’s that grateful people are happier.” People who practice gratitude report:
- Fewer physical symptoms of illness
- More optimism
- Greater goal attainment
- Decreased anxiety and depression, among other health benefits.
This season of Thanksgiving it is certainly easy to feel thankful. Being with the people we love will bring feelings of happiness and thankfulness. I challenge you to practice intentional gratefulness every day this month and see what positive effects it has on your body and mind. Follow me as I share some insights about gratefulness on facebook and Twitter this month.
“Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” 1 Thessalonians 5:18