Here we are at Thanksgiving, a time when many people stop and give thanks for their many blessings. And lately there has been a lot of talk about how the act of being grateful can affect one’s overall well-being. In fact, some claim that being thankful is the connection to happiness!
According to Melanie Greenberg Ph.D., in her article, “How Gratitude Leads to a Happier Life,” posted Nov. 22, 2015 on Psychology Today, feeling and expressing gratitude turns our mental focus to the positive, which benefits one’s mood and health. (https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201511/how-gratitude-leads-happier-life)
But sometimes, with all of life’s burdens and hardships, being thankful and practicing gratitude doesn’t always come easy. Here are some great ways to practice gratitude, not just in November at Thanksgiving, but throughout the year.
Be a Pollyanna and focus on the good stuff. Often, when so many things are going wrong, it’s easy to dwell on the bad things and forget about the good stuff. Make a conscious effort every day to focus on the good. Every time a negative thought tries to creep in your head, think of something good or positive going on in your life.
Keep a gratitude journal. Actually writing down all that you’re thankful for takes a conscious effort. So buy a small notebook and carve out some time during the day to list the things you’re thankful for. You may be surprised to see how the list grows and changes over time.
Truly love what you have, not what you don’t. For some people, the grass is always greener. But the reality of this is merely a mindset. Remember there is a difference between a want and a need. If you love what you have, less really can be more.
Take pleasure in the simple things. Every day we are busy with school and work. No wonder it’s so easy to get caught up in the busyness of life. Find ways to slow down. Enjoy a cup of hot tea on a cool, crisp day. Take a walk through a flower garden. Read a good book or see a movie. Look up at a baby blue sky on a bright, sunny day. Soak it all in and fill a wave a gratitude wash over you as you appreciate these things again for the first time.
Live in the moment. The only thing that really matters is the here and now. Take it for what it is. Don’t dwell on any of your mistakes or issues from the past. Just remember what you learned from them and carry that knowledge with you into the future. And yes, you have to plan for the future, but don’t let your planning for the future rob you of your here and now.
Don’t compare yourself or your life with the lives of others. That old adage that someone’s life is always better than yours rings true here but the opposite is also true – your life is always better than someone else’s. Everything is relative. This type of thinking can be counterproductive.
Help others. Many of you already do this every day – whether it’s through your job or volunteering you’re making a difference, but it’s become second nature. Be sure to take a few moments to acknowledge your actions and connect with the reasons you began your work in the first place. If you’re not currently helping others, find a cause you would like to support and find ways that fits your lifestyle to support that cause.
What are some other ways you practice gratitude?