Welcome to Post Two in our series celebrating gratitude this November! In our first post, we talked about just how downright magical gratitude can be for improving your level of satisfaction with life. More than just a perspective, practicing gratitude is linked to improved physical health and mental well-being. It’s associated with better sleep, more energy, less depression and possibly even a lower risk of heart disease.
So how do you turn on the tap to get more of this feel-good energy in your life?
Here are a few ideas to get you going:
- Commit Start each day with a commitment to practicing gratitude. So often we begin our days with thoughts of anxiety and scarcity—“I didn’t get enough sleep” or “I’m already running late!” When we turn our thoughts towards something good first thing in the morning, it sets the tone for our day, steadies our nervous system and reminds us that despite the struggle, all is not lost.
- Write it Down Many people find the practice of writing a gratitude list helps them to get inspired. Often, I don’t actively feel gratitude until I set out and look for some. Try it every day for awhile, and see if your outlook on life doesn’t shift dramatically!
- Thank Someone Demonstrating your appreciation of others is a reliable way to help you remember all the good that is happening in the world, no matter how bleak you may feel at the moment. Showing others our gratitude by acknowledging them helps us feel more connected, and reminds us we are not alone.
- Seek it Out Try taking a gratitude walk, or bringing a gratitude focus to a meeting or event. Actively look for things to appreciate—the vivid color of autumn trees, the scent of a blooming flower, a neighbor’s warm smile, or a crisp winter day. These things are free and abundantly available to us. We don’t have to wait until things are perfect to feel grateful. Although this may seem overly simple or silly, exercising our gratitude muscle with small things helps it get stronger. It re-wires our brains to look for all the things that are going right in our world, instead of focusing on what we are unsatisfied with.
- Change the Dialogue Try identifying something or someone that you regard negatively (the rude cashier), and turning the perception into a positive one (the fast cashier). Commit to challenging your negative internal dialogue. So many of our thinking patterns are hard-wired. If you’ve focused on the negative for most of your life, it will take time to re-train your brain. Start small.
Turning gratitude into a habit is how we can find deeper, more lasting satisfaction with life. Instead of relying on external circumstances – like a dream job, more money, or our perfect romantic partner– we learn to be thankful for the abundance already in our lives. If we make this a habit, the chances are when some future good fortune does arrive, we will be able to truly appreciate it!