“The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.” ~William Penn
I presume we can all agree that being grateful is a quality we all should practice. It’s easy to say, but it takes practice and planning. It sounds strange to say it takes practice to be more grateful but it’s really true.
It’s human nature to want we don’t have. We all do it… wishing we looked different, have more resources or better health….I could go on and on. We all want to be content but life is not easy so we find ourselves wishing for things we don’t have.
Is it possible to be content?
What if it’s possible to wire our brains in order to be more content and happy? What if somebody told you that you would be happier and healthier if you worked on being more grateful every day? Guess what? Research says this is possible but it takes focus, patience and practice. Practicing gratitude is a healthy daily habit that has a big payoff!
I can honestly say over the last several years, my daily gratitude habit has paid off in my outlook on my life and my long-term happiness. When I say “habit,” I really do mean a habit. Good habits take time to develop. There is no doubt that an optimistic attitude creates a gratefulness.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS EVERY DAY
For many years I woke up each day and waited to see how I felt, I would then let those sentiments dictate the way I perceived the day. Now, I take time to count my blessings every morning as I set my mind in the right direction for the day. This daily ritual has changed my life. It takes a conscience effort to start the day off right.
The very first thing I think of when I open my eyes in the morning is— THANK YOU GOD! I read my daily devotional and sit in the stillness of the morning to pray. This daily practice is now something I look forward to.
Like many of you, family and career make life extremely busy so, setting aside time to sit and reflect is a newfound gift I give myself. Being mindful as I reflect and appreciate life’s moments and blessings has resulted in less stress and contentment.
Some people find that mindful meditation is an ideal way to enhance our lives and reduce stress. Not to mention reduce depression.
THE PROBLEM WITH COMPARING OURSELVES TO OTHERS
Let’s face it- it’s hard to be content when advertisements and social media make us sense we don’t have enough. We also feel like we are not good enough. That feeling sucks! It’s depressing.
Every day we are bombarded with images of the unattainable ideal self. Friends and acquaintances on social media often paint a perfect portrait of themselves. People change their online persona to make it look like their life is way more exciting and full of joy than it actually is. A lot of what we see online is a facade.
SELF COMPARISON IS IN OUR DNA
It’s important to note that The Social Comparison Theory states that we compare ourselves to others to make accurate evaluations of ourselves. Comparing yourself to others is in our DNA so don’t kick yourself if you do this. Reminding yourself of this should make you feel better. Yes?
Making comparisons affect the way that people behave and act. Some similarities might make you perceive you’re inadequate, which result in a lack of confidence and inability to reach a goal. When you don’t feel good about yourself, everything seems to suck.
We typically compare the worst we know of ourselves to the best we presume about others. The result is never productive. How then, might we break free from this habit of comparison? Embrace your life for what it is and look for the good in everything! A good attitude about gratitude pays off.
For instance, as you get older, you perceive life differently. Life goes so fast, friends and family pass away…. sometimes you just need to stop and pay attention to ‘all the’ blessings that surround you. This makes for a better overall attitude that will open your heart to gratefulness.
Making time to reflect & BE grateful is a healthy habit
With that said, taking to stop and reflect is challenging. When you are running on the hamster wheel of life, it’s hard to slow down. If we can come to a grinding halt to take a breath to be thankful for your blessings, we all would be happier.
By being mindful for really mundane things such as holding a warm cup of coffee between your hands in the morning or standing in the shower relaxed as the hot water pours over your body is an ideal time to say “thank you.” Making time to reflect and be grateful is a healthy habit. Creating a mindful home makes this process easier and enjoyable.
It all sounds good but on the flip side, when it feels like your life is going haywire, it’s almost impossible to see things in a positive light. We have all been there: angry and upset about a colleague or friend that upset you, dealing with financial issues, licking your wounds after a break-up or coping with the death of a loved one. As humans, we all suffer some type of misfortune that may stick with you for years.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself” we have all heard. It’s easy to get down on ourselves and feel self-pity, but it doesn’t ever help us in the long run. When you are down, try to exchange self-pity for gratitude. I admit that this is not easy to do but it is necessary for for our health.
Re-wiring Our Brains
The good news is that research shows that our thoughts have the power to shape our brains. Yes, this is good news because we can re-wire our minds to have more gratitude. This gratitude creates contentment.
Best selling author, Rick Hanson explains that negative experiences are like “Velcro” and tend to stick in our minds, whereas positive experiences are like “Teflon” and more readily slip away.
This is why we need to work on molding our brains to be more confident. There’s a pretty remarkable finding in the realm of relationship psychology from John Gottman, of the University of Washington, that it takes at least five positive interactions to make up for just one negative one. In other words, in effect, a negative interaction in a meaningful relationship is five times more powerful than a positive interaction.
Fortunately, we have the power to focus on positive interactions that will help to mold our brains that will result in happiness and good health. One critical step is practicing gratitude.
6 Scientifically Proven Strategies To Practice Gratitude:
- Start Your Morning Off Being Thankful for your blessings. Starting your day this way will cultivate a positive attitude and a genuine feeling of gratitude. Whether you do this in prayer or in meditation, make it an everyday routine. Look for the good in all situations – even those you would typically view as negative. As the saying goes, “Every cloud has a silver lining.”
- Be Mindful– anchor yourself in the present moment. As the saying goes… Stop to smell the roses. Take special care to appreciate the little things throughout your day. Notice the breeze, the sound of people laughing, the music in your car, etc.
- Help Others & Volunteer- When you give, you get. You feel better about yourself when you help other people. By helping people in need that are less fortunate than you, puts life into perspective.
- Go On A Daily Walk Alone- As you walk, notice as many pleasant things around you as possible—the gentle breeze, smell of grass, the sound of dogs barking, the rays of the sun, and so on.
- Write In A Gratitude Journal– Studies suggest that writing in a gratitude journal three times per week might actually have a more significant impact on our happiness than journaling every day. Each week, write down five things you are grateful for.
- Appreciate Others–By letting people know how much you appreciate them, you will feel better about yourself.
5 SCIENTIFIC reasons to practice gratitude
Improves Psychological Health
Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D. ,a leading gratitude researcher, has conducted multiple studies on the link between gratitude and well-being. His research confirms that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.
Improves Physical Health
Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains, and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences. Not surprisingly, grateful people are also more likely to take care of their health
Spend just 15 minutes jotting down a few grateful sentiments before bed, and you may sleep better and longer.
Increases Mental Strength
Research has shown gratitude not only reduces stress, but it may also play a significant role in overcoming trauma. A 2006 study published in Behavior Research and Therapy found that Vietnam War veterans that practiced gratitude experienced lower rates of post-traumatic stress disorder. A 2003 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology found that gratitude helped to foster resilience. The study backed this up following the terrorist attacks on Sept 11th.
Practicing gratitude has changed my life, I hope you are inspired to make an effort everyday to do the same if you are not doing so already. Science proves the benefits, you just can’t deny it.
Please share with your other Gal Pals and friends and let me know your thoughts and insight.