Gratitude is powerful. Multiple research studies demonstrate that practising gratitude is one of the best ways to be calmer, happier and more successful[i].
When my seven children were younger I often felt overwhelmed by the constant demands of working and caring for my family. One day I read an article which changed the way I saw my life. When the author faced a task that seemed irksome or difficult, she tried instead to see it as a gift. In this way even the most annoying jobs can become an opportunity for gratitude.
Apply Gratitude to Daily Tasks
Instead of thinking: ‘I have to go shopping for food’, I can think: ‘I can go shopping for food at a full supermarket. I have sufficient recourses to feed my family. I am so grateful I can do this.’
Instead of thinking: ‘I have to get the children ready in time for school’, I can think: ‘I have healthy children. They have the opportunity to go to school and get an education. Many people in the world would give anything for this.’
Instead of thinking: ‘I have to get some exercise to keep fit’, I can think: ‘I have arms and legs that work and the ability to exercise. Many people do not have this. Exercising might be tough but I know I will feel better for it. I am so grateful.’
Instead of thinking, ‘I have to do all this laundry and ironing’, I can think: ‘I have clothes and all the clean water and equipment I need to keep them clean. This is a wonderful gift.’
This grateful approach can be applied to virtually any task. I don’t always remember to think like this, but when I do I always feel better.
Negativity Comes Naturally
Don’t waste energy feeling guilty about negative thinking. Human beings are biologically predisposed to focus on negative ideas and outcomes. This goes back to our prehistoric ancestors who needed rapidly to envisage the worst possible outcomes in order to survive in a dangerous world. Today most of us do not live under immediate threat from wild predators or attackers. Yet we still tend to focus on disaster scenarios and what is lacking. This attitude may sometimes be useful, but most of the time it is detrimental to our health and happiness. We feel better and become more productive when we develop more positive habits of thought[ii].
Benefits of Gratitude
The benefits of gratitude are enormous. Developing daily habits of gratitude changes our brains and personalities for the better. Research evidence shows that gratitude makes us happier, healthier and more productive. People who practice gratitude regularly consistently report marked improvements in their relationships, careers and emotions. A better marriage, stronger immune system, more sleep, increased self-esteem and happier memories are just some of the gifts of gratitude. It is well worth cultivating!
Don’t Wallow in Guilt – Be Generous Instead
We should not confuse gratitude with feeling pointlessly guilty that we have more than others. I may reflect with gratitude that I have plenty to eat while many in the world go hungry. These thoughts may lead me to greater generosity to those in need. I may become a kinder and more caring person. But once I have done what I can for others I should still be happy that I have what I need. Allowing guilt to destroy the gifts of gratitude helps no one. Instead let gratitude and the feelings of freedom and wellbeing that flow from it become a source of generosity.
Keeping a Gratitude Journal
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to get into the habit of feeling grateful. You can make this part of a daily practice of journaling or meditation, or do it on its own. Each day write down three things you feel grateful for. Spend a few minutes thinking about those things. What difference do they make to your life? How do they make you feel? How is your life better as a result?
Once you start thinking about it, there are so many things to be grateful for. You might be thankful for people or animals who make a difference in your life. Maybe you notice the joys of this moment – the feeling of the sun on your skin, or the way light reflects on water. Daily food, fresh air and health are natural sources of gratitude. Perhaps you are grateful for aspects of your community, your home or your faith. Once gratitude begins it opens our eyes to more and more gifts all around us.
Mother and writer Ann Voskamp took up the challenge to write down one thousand things she was grateful for. The experience changed her life immeasurably for the better. Not everyone enjoys her writing style or shares her religious faith, but she writes powerfully about the benefits of gratitude. There is a link to her book One Thousand Gifts below[iii].
Other Ways to Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is a great habit to cultivate. It is wonderful to build it into your life on a regular basis. If journaling doesn’t appeal to you, you could try spending a few minutes at the end of each day reflecting on what went well today. You might like to share your grateful thoughts with a family member or a friend. Or you can just think about them as you settle down for sleep. Gratitude can help you sleep better and wake feeling positive.
Today I am Grateful …
- For a rainy day, giving me time to catch up on my writing.
- For my loving family, here with me on holiday.
- For the local swimming pool where I started my day with a refreshing swim.
Today’s Calming Practice
Sit quietly for ten minutes and write down three things you feel grateful for right now. Reflect on how these things make you feel good. Be grateful. If you wish, share something you are grateful for with someone else, either in person or online.
Thanks for reading this blog post. I am writing a series of 31 blogs every day this August. I plan to publish them later in the year as a book entitled, ‘Finding Your Calm Space – 31 Ways to Find Calm in a Crazy World’.
I’m Karen. I am a Yoga teacher, Reflexologist and busy mum of seven. I live with my family in Billericay, Essex, UK. In the past I have worked as a Midwife, Health Visitor, Baby Signing teacher and Tax Inspector. I love getting outdoors, swimming in the sea, walking and writing. Helping people relax is one of the things I do best.
You can learn more about my Yoga classes and Reflexology at my website www.thecalmspace.co.uk