Being Grateful for Everyday Things
Have you ever been told, “Be grateful for what you have.” Or, “There are a million starving children that would be grateful for (whatever food you didn’t want to eat).”
The thing is, as a nation we have a higher standard of almost everything than most places in the world. One study indicated that in the United States the bottom 5% of American income distribution is still richer than 68% of the world’s inhabitants, and Canada ranks slightly higher than the US in the income for the bottom percentile of our population. So even though most of us have a roof over our head and walls holding it up, a proper floor, clean running water, heat, education, healthcare, clean air, freedom to express ourselves and the list goes on, we still struggle with gratitude. I know I’ve said it, “There’s nothing in the house to eat,” (while the cupboards, fridge and freezer are full).
Cultivating a practice of gratitude has multiple benefits
supported by a number of research studies (science), not to mention the many religions who teach the same principle. The best part is, it’s a relatively easy habit to establish, with the potential for positive, tangible results. Practicing gratitude helps change your focus and perspective even though your actual circumstances may not change. It has been linked to improved sleep, physical and psychological health, self-esteem and mental strength. It can significantly increase your well-being and life satisfaction.
Something as simple as starting a gratitude journal
where you take a few minutes at the end of the day to write down some of the things you are grateful for can make a difference. Some people write down things they are grateful for and put them in a gratitude jar where they can review them if they’re having a rough day. Another way to practice gratitude is to send a thank you note/email/text etc. to someone who has done something for you, even as simple as acknowledging a co-worker who helped you with a project, or saying thank you to someone who holds a door open for you. My way of practicing gratitude, is praying at the end of the day and thinking about all the things I am grateful for. A gratitude meditation is another great option. What’s important is finding the way that works best for you.
Grateful people tend to experience
fewer aches and pains and generally report feeling healthier than other people. Not surprisingly, grateful people tend to look after their health better by doing things like exercising.
Gratitude also reduces multiple toxic emotions
such as envy, frustration, resentment and regret. Research indicates gratitude helps to increase happiness and reduces depression. I’ve been working with someone close to me suffering from depression. One of the strategies I suggested they try was starting a gratitude journal, where they write down at least two things they are grateful for each day. Combined with other strategies, they have shown marked improvement in their outlook on life. Writing down as many as five things and varying them day to day is helpful. Take time to notice the different things in a day that you can be grateful for. Daily rote repetition of the same things can lead us to start taking those things for granted.
Grateful people tend to be less aggressive
and seek retaliation less frequently even when they have been treated unkindly. They experience more sensitivity and empathy toward other people.
Gratitude has also been shown to increase self-esteem
and reduce social comparisons. Instead of becoming resentful toward people with better jobs or more money – a major factor in reduced self-esteem – grateful people are able to appreciate other people’s accomplishments.
I know for me, when things aren’t going right, or something challenging happens, it helps me to put it in perspective by reminding myself of all great things I have to be thankful for in my life, and to remember that we can`t always get everything when and how we want it. Life is good and practicing gratitude helps to stay focused on that.
Gratitude is not limited to those in the most prosperous of nations or circumstances, people from every nation and every walk of life have things to be grateful for. Practicing gratitude is about changing the perspective and focus in your life, whatever that life might be. Like Sheryl Crow sings, “It’s not having what you want, It’s wanting what you’ve got.”
So join the journey and “Soak up the Sun!”
Find more happiness boosts in My Happiness Project.