The world is an uncertain and sometimes scary place. This is especially true recently as we work through an unprecedented pandemic situation. The future, as we thought we knew it, has changed as people experience job and income loss in staggering numbers.
As this pandemic situation continues to evolve, it’s more important than ever that we try to focus on the positive things in our lives. By developing an attitude that projects thankfulness and appreciation, we as a society can help turn this tough time into a more positive imprint on our history.
I began a daily gratitude practice over a year ago, and I have to say it has altered my perspective and allowed me to view trying situations with a grateful heart. I am a huge proponent of doing what you can to create change in your little corner of the world. One of the most meaningful things you can do for yourself and the people in your circle right now is to bring positivity to your interactions. And one of the best ways I know how to do that is by developing an attitude of gratitude in day-to-day life.
What does it mean to be grateful?
Gratitude is the simple act of being thankful or appreciative. You can express gratitude towards people, situations, or physical things.
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.”Zig Ziglar
What are the benefits of practicing gratitude?
Gratitude has numerous benefits, both physical and mental. An article in Psychology Today found that not only can a regular gratitude practice reduce envy and aggression, but it can also promote better sleep and greater mental strength. Positive Psychology pulled together many studies on gratitude showing benefits in areas ranging from emotional and physical to career and social.
With so many people currently struggling with job loss, the career benefits of gratitude are especially intriguing and encouraging. Not only can an attitude of gratitude allow us to more easily find meaning in our work (which is especially helpful if the work has changed in recent months), but it can also make us more patient and effective.
By practicing gratitude in your personal life, it naturally flows over the work/life boundary. In your work, it can present as increased appreciation and praise for co-workers. Heaven knows we could all do with a little more recognition at a time when companies are downsizing and relying on existing employees to pick up the slack.
Practicing gratitude seems like a simple thing. Can it really change my life?
In a word, absolutely. An attitude of gratitude is so incredibly simple to implement, which is one of the main things I love about it. But merely expressing more gratitude each day can change your entire outlook on life. The benefits of gratitude are so plentiful, and they extend past the moment in which you experience it.
According to an article on The Neuroscience of Gratitude, gratitude has positive impacts on mental health issues, including anxiety, stress, and depression. Research shows “at the neurochemical level, gratitude acts as a catalyst for neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine – the ones that manage our emotions, anxiety, and immediate stress responses.” By focusing on the positive, we can literally change the pathways in our brains. This, in turn, helps to make us feel more content and happier.
What are some ways to practice gratitude in daily life?
- Write down 3-5 things you’re grateful for each morning. This can be part of a journaling practice or something you do by itself. (I have gratitude as part of my journaling practice in my morning routine.) The words you write down can be as small as “the feeling of sunshine on my face,” “my husband thanking me for doing the laundry,” or “the dog not swimming in the pond across the street again.” The items you’re grateful for might also be a bit larger, like “being part of a community of like-minded people at my church,” “having enough money to not worry about feeding my family,” or “fate for bringing my husband and I together.”
- Thank someone. You can do this by sending a thank you note, a text, or get crazy and pick up the phone. Reaching out to someone to let them know you appreciate having them in your life will do wonders for you both.
- Speak what you’re grateful for into the world. Step outside and say what you’re thankful for out loud. Tell the Sun that you’re thankful for it shining. I guarantee you’ll start to smile. (It doesn’t matter if it’s because you’re laughing at yourself, it’s still a smile.)
- Seek to appreciate the little things. The old cliche, “stop and smell the roses,” has turned out to be more real than I ever could recognize as a child. Merely taking a step back from your day to realize something as small as the smell of a rose is a great way to begin to be appreciative of the things around you.
What can you find to be thankful for today? Take the next 30 seconds to sit still and think of three things in your life, big or small, that you appreciate. Do you have other ways to develop an attitude of gratitude? Tell me about it in the comments.