I’ve always been a bit of a stickler for good manners…Being polite is free, easy and when everyone does it it makes life a whole lot more pleasant! So it is no wonder I am gratitude’s biggest cheerleader. I’m so happy to be able to share with you how you can change your life with gratitude.
Simply put, practising gratitude is effectively just saying thank you!
It’s up to you who you feel you’re thanking; yourself, the universe, God, some other higher power. Where you send those words of thanks doesn’t matter too much, the important part is the act of being grateful.
Without a doubt, gratitude has been the practice that has created the biggest shift in my life, in my mindset and in the way I feel, but dedication is key. If you want to reap the benefits it is vital to commit and make this practice part of your daily routine, as much like any good habit the positive effects compound over time. Tuning into the frequency of gratitude once will make you feel a little more joyful in that moment, but feel thankful on the regular and those good feelings will snowball, growing and spreading to all areas of you life.
The fact that you are reading this on your phone or laptop now, you have a wifi connection and time in the day to explore your interests, you are breathing, thinking, seeing means that no matter how you currently feel about yourself and your life, you have things you can be grateful for.
So why is gratitude important?
Gratitude allows you to find the silver lining in any situation. Being thankful shifts your attention away from negative emotions, making you happier, more satisfied and more able to appreciate all that is good in your life. And when you’re in this grateful state you feel so much more abundant, your proverbial cup is undoubtedly half full. In a consumerist world that constantly tells us we need more, its easy to examine what you have and find yourself lacking. Gratitude turns the tables and offers a gentle reminder of how lucky you really are.
As with any new habit, the more you practice the easier it gets. The goal isn’t to see gratitude as a tick box exercise on your to do list like going to the gym or picking up bananas. The aim is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Then your appreciation of life doesn’t depend on what does or doesn’t happen, but on how you process those events. When gratitude becomes an attitude it empowers you, giving you choice in how you respond in any given moment.
Hold on… You might think that sounds hunky dory when things are going well for you, but how the hell can you feel grateful when life gives you a tonne of lemons? The truth is, when you’re going through the ringer is when your gratitude practice matters the most. For me, it’s been in my darkest moments that gratitude has offered a spark of hope, the promise of better to come, but the practice and mindset need to be worked on when things are calm in order for you to build up that resilience.
Gratitude is not the same as happiness. Happiness is a transient state, it tends to be dependent on external circumstances and it can be short-lived if those external factors change or disappear. Gratitude comes from within. It is a choice and unlike happiness it is not mutually exclusive to sadness, grief, anger and fear.
When I speak to people about gratitude I find that people who’ve struggled the most in life tend to find it easiest to be thankful. Take the example of physical health; when you’ve felt agonising pain or terrible nausea you have so much more appreciation when you feel well. It is the contrast of the highs and lows that makes life’s highs feel so much sweeter. When everything is peachy we often take it all for granted!
When you’ve got all these blessings in your life; people who love you, bosses who pay you, roofs that keep you dry, you can become numb to your privilege. All you see is when your partner forgets to pick up the dry cleaning, your boss doesn’t acknowledge your hard work, you don’t like the colour of your kitchen… Gratitude is the way out of this pessimistic tunnel vision.
When you’ve been down to rock bottom, gratitude comes more freely when things improve. A loving, supportive relationship feels so much sweeter after a neglectful one. A home cooked meal tastes even more delicious after a week of eating hospital food. Your double bed feels extra comfy after you’ve been camping! The beauty of gratitude is that it allows you to use life’s lows to help you really relish and enjoy the highs, giving you greater appreciation of the vibrancy of your emotional landscape.
Its not as woo woo as it sounds…
Research has been done into the practice of gratitude and studies reveal that a consistent practice is proven to have a deep impact on overall wellbeing and life satisfaction. Remember that consistency is key. Small daily steps add up to big shifts over time. You will actually start to create new neural pathways in the brain and with repetition these new ways of thinking can become your default so you start to think more positively and feel more grateful without consciously choosing to.
What can we learn from gratitude?
Being thankful helps you realise it’s not about the situation you find yourself in, but your reaction to it. Acceptance is an important ingredient for true peace of mind! For example, when it rains on your beach holiday: you can complain until you’re blue in the face and it won’t change the fact it is bucketing it down (it almost definitely will make you have a miserable time!). Accepting the weather for it is and embracing gratitude – you’re still on holiday, not at work, spending time with friends and family, enjoying the fresh sea air – will totally transform your experience.
If you’re a gratitude junkie and ready to take it one step further you might actually be thankful for the things that don’t go your way. Using the phrase “this is good because” challenges you to find the silver lining in every situation. Perhaps your train is delayed and you have a long wait on a cold platform ~ “this is good because now I have time to call my mother”. Or a friends cancels your dinner plans at the minute ~ “this is good because now I can stay home, watch the film I’ve been desperate to watch for ages and have a long, relaxing soak in the bath”. In this way, having an attitude of gratitude allows you to see the good in what is already happening, rather than waiting for good things to happen. It feels super empowering to take such an active role in your happiness!
My biggest gratitude realisations:
- You can be happier with less… the secret is not how much you have, but how you feel about what you have. You might be crazy grateful for your cosy 1 bed flat, while someone else is living miserably in their mansion wishing it was a castle.
- Being thankful doesn’t mean you have to settle. Gratitude and ambition are not mutually exclusive!
- Entitlement gets in the way of gratitude. There is a fine balance between knowing you’re worthy of all that you dream of and feeling entitled to it. Always show gratitude, even if you think you deserve it!
- Your gratitude practice will have a ripple effect. Your grace and positivity will help others to see the good in situations, making you far more inspiring than you realise.
How to start a gratitude practice?
The best thing about gratitude is the simplicity of it! If you want to get started, all you need to do is write down 3 things each day that you feel grateful for. They can be big things (getting a promotion at work, your wedding, an upcoming trip to Mexico), small things (getting a seat on the bus, discovering a new song you love, the perfect cup of tea) or fundamental things (the roof over your head, your eyesight, the breath in your lungs). Be mindful, don’t just write on autopilot – you want to really feel thankful for each thing you think of. Make that practice part of your routine, journaling while the kettle boils in the morning or on your commute, then watch and wait for the magic to unfold as your whole perspective shifts!