The practice of gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for decades. Long-term studies support gratitude’s effectiveness, suggesting that a positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success in work, greater health, peak performance in sports and business, a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery and other health set backs.
A personal example – when I snapped my kneecap in two following a fall, I had emergency surgery where screws and wires were used to hold the two halves together to mend. I went home the following day and I was so grateful I hadn’t done any further harm. I could have smashed my face and teeth or suffered a head injury or worse. The surgeon did a fantastic job plus you can barely see the scar. More reason to be grateful. Throughout my recovery I continued to give thanks daily as I did my rehab exercises then sat on the couch watching the birds visit my garden. I was back driving in three weeks, playing golf by five weeks and totally fit and strong in just two months.
But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it can still be difficult to sustain each and every day. So many of us are trained to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. And for gratitude to meet its full healing potential in our lives, it needs to become more than just a Thanksgiving word. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit. And that can take some time.
That’s why practicing gratitude daily is essential. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.
Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope. It also delivers better outcomes!
There are many things to be grateful for: clean water, legs that work, friends who have your back, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jumpers, strawberries, the ability to read & write, flowers, our health, butterflies. What’s on your list?
Some Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude
- Keep a gratitude journal where you list things that you are thankful for. Whether you make daily, weekly or monthly lists it’s important to keep the journal where you can see it to remind you to think in a grateful way.
- Make a gratitude collage with pictures, drawings and words.
- Practice gratitude around the dinner table where everyone shares what they are most grateful for each and every day.
- Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
- Don’t complain, make a gratitude list instead. You will be amazed by how much better you feel.
- Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.
As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you will be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you feel. That sense of fulfillment is actually gratitude at work. Better and better!