Practicing Gratitude for Happiness
“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight.”—Elizabeth Gilbert
Browse any self-help book or self-care post and gratitude gets brought up a lot! There is a reason though that people are sharing that practice. It is actually a very useful way to feel content and happy in life.
I have been practicing gratitude for the last two months and it has honestly changed my perspective and thinking.
I was inspired by David Steindl-Rast’s TED Talk titled “Want to Be Happy? Be Grateful“. He inspired me to look at each opportunity that presents itself, even the smallest one, as something to be happy for. In today’s society, we are always on the go and don’t take the chance to stop and look at the opportunities we get, missing out on moments of happiness. He instructs his listeners to take a moment the next time something presents itself and just be grateful for it.
It sounds so simple, yet we know negative thinking can affect our stress levels and happiness. By changing your perspective, you unconsciously become more content in life.
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5 WAYS GRATITUDE WILL MAKE YOU HAPPIER
1. Emotional Well-being
I suffer from recurring depression and panic attacks and grateful thinking has had a profound impact on my thought patterns.
Researchers and scientists have been looking into the effects of gratitude on fighting depression and other mental health illnesses. In this study, conducted among university patients receiving psychotherapy, it was concluded that writing gratitude bettered their mental health in comparison to those writing expressively (meaning writing about stressful experiences and feelings).
Read more about that study here.
2. Slow Down, Live in the present
Grateful thinking forces you to stop living in the past and future. To be grateful for an opportunity, your circumstance or something else, you need to be in the present to truly appreciate it.
Living in the past and the future creates huge amounts of anxiety and depression in a lot of people. Not being able to let go of past events can cause you to hold on to things for the rest of your life, affecting your thought patterns, decisions, and interactions. On the other side, living in the future can lead to never feeling satisfied because you’re always seeking better – the idea that it is normal to suffer now in return for a future outcome.
Grateful living means being in the present. Appreciate and be thankful for everything that comes your way at that moment. Take a moment and be grateful for it before moving on – I swear you will find yourself smiling.
3. Stop comparing yourself to others
Being grateful removes jealousy from your life. There is no room for comparing yourself to others if you are grateful and happy with your life.
Attempting to copy the trajectory of the lives of others can be detrimental to your happiness. While aging is linear, our goal path is definitely not, it twists and zig-zags and unexpected things happen that might change our plans. Being grateful along this journey, rather than being resentful at “Susie” who seems to make it look so easy, will reduce feelings of jealousy and create more content and happiness in your situation.
4. More compassionate
The thought is if your more content with your life there will be more room for helping others.
I often hear people, especially those with a lot to be thankful for, complaining about the most minuscule things like having to pay taxes, inconsistent public transportation or having no cream for their coffee. I am saying this thinking that there are so many people on earth that would be grateful for the services that taxes bring (eg. free health care), for public transportation that runs 24/7, and just to have a hot cup of black coffee in some circumstances.
To be aware of how lucky you are, by practicing gratefulness, opens your eyes to those who are actually suffering and to help them if you are able to (which we usually are). I don’t have a lot of money, but when I visit Petsmart I always donate a can of cat food to an animal in need. It is a small act of kindness, but there are usually some ways we can find to help others, no matter what our circumstances are.
5. Achieve your goals
Lastly, gratefulness increases our productivity towards our goals. Like motivation, gratitude powers us to keep going. It enables you to be more patient so you’re not giving up on goals if they are not producing fast results (also known as instant gratification – not to be confused with the gratitude we’re talking about).
It might be a misconception that because gratitude makes you thankful for your present opportunities and situation that you might not need the drive to pursue goals (which means living in the future). I would argue that this is not the case, that gratitude allows you to be thankful along the journey rather than at the finish line.
FOOD FOR THOUGHT
Now that you are aware of how gratefulness and being thankful can impact your life in a positive way, it is your turn to put it into practice.
You can follow David Steindl-Rast’s advice from his TED Talk, which has completely changed my perspective. I promise over time you will find your thought processes and perspective have shifted and you will be feeling more content and happy.
Indigo has actually created this great little 5-Minute Journal that works great with this practice. It contains space to write daily affirmations, reflections, and evaluations that you can do for the first 5 minutes of your day or at the end of the day.
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