It’s so easy to complain – about everything. My annoying roommate who woke me up before my alarm, that guy who cut me off on my way to work this morning, the customer at that just got under my skin, or the fact that I need to wear an extra sweater because it’s way too cold outside. I could keep going.
However, one of the hardest things to do in these situations is to practice gratitude.
Gratitude isn’t just for Thanksgiving, even though it’s most commonly talked about during this time of year, and the other 11 months we get caught up in Facebook statuses, politics, and other people’s opinions.
But, what if gratitude wasn’t just practiced on the third Thursday in November, what would happen if we all practiced it daily?
The Benefits of Gratitude
Gratitude has multiple benefits. Not only emotional and mental benefits, but physical benefits. Those who practice gratitude and take time to reflect upon the things that they’re thankful for have been known to experience more positive emotions, sleep better, be more compassionate, and even have stronger immune systems.
Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons, shows that keeping a gratitude journal—regularly writing brief reflections on moments for which we’re thankful—can significantly increase well-being and life satisfaction.
Reading all of this can seem extremely inspiring, and can motivate us into action to create gratitude lists or . However, if you’re anything like me, your attention span is short and the motivation will only last a couple days until you fixate your attention into the newest and latest cute cat video on Youtube.
Like getting in shape, gratitude is a practice, and can sometimes take awhile to reap the benefits. So, after doing my research, I’ve found a couple of ways to practice gratitude without doing the same thing, and without losing motivation.
Keep Your Practice Fresh
By varying your practice, it can keep your gratitude fresh. If you create a gratitude list every single day before you go to bed, the exact same way, you make become bored with the routine, and you may start to lose meaning in it. Another approach would be practicing gratitude after hardships or struggles you have. Maybe one day you choose to write in a journal, and another day you feel like expressing it to a friend. Or, maybe one day you express the gratitude for the people or things in your workplace, and on another day you count your blessings with respect to past events or physical surroundings. Doing this can help make gratitude a meaningful practice.
Improve Other Areas Of Your Life
While being grateful can make you happy, being happy can also make you grateful. There are plenty of ways to get in a happy state including exercising, volunteering, or finding a hobby you enjoy. Once you are doing something you enjoy the endorphins will start to flow. In this, showing gratitude can become easier and you can start mixing up the ways to practice being thankful.
Practice Gratitude In The Hardships
There’s no doubt that when we’re going through challenging times in life like a breakup, loss of employment, loss of a loved one, or even a bad day, it can be difficult to practice gratitude. However, being grateful is not only about being thankful for positive experiences but the hard times in life in which we get through. In fact, sometimes thinking about negative situations can really dial in our focus on what we have to be thankful for.
What The World Would Look Like
It’s imperative that we recognize our daily practices of gratitude can have a broad social and political implication.
If I live in California during the wildfires and am grateful for access to clean air, I tend to feel this because I grew up living in the state and fires are a common occurrence. I know the despairing threats and devastation a fire can cause. However, I don’t need to feel indebted to anyone for this fresh air. Clean air is not a gift, however, I am thankful because having air – clean air, that is – is necessary to live.
The same is true for fresh food. In third world countries, there are countless who go hungry each day, and many die from starvation.
Stepping back, listening, and looking into my world with gratitude, I can recognize a threat to clean air and fresh food as a personal threat. While these issues can be personal, it affects more than one, and cannot be fixed with just one person. By this, I must reach out to others who will also be affected, so that we can come together to manage it.
So how can gratitude change the world? Relationships would be restored, maybe politicians would come together civilly to solve common issues, the hungry, the lonely, and the suffering would no longer be hurting; the sick and the poor may become healthy, and the sun wouldn’t rise on another country ripped apart by indifference.
However, it all starts with one person who practices gratitude.
“Gratitude makes sense of your past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”