Life can be hectic. For a happier life, carve out time to reflect and be more grateful. Gratitude is a feeling of thankfulness towards the world or other people. It shows you do not take things for granted. It’s a skill anyone can learn as an alternative to resentment, regret, and fear.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow, ”says Melody Beattie.
Research shows, for example, that frequency of small, positive experiences has a greater impact on our life satisfaction than a few epic events of achievements. People who are grateful feel better about themselves and their lives, and they also show higher levels of happiness.
The concept of gratitude has existed for centuries, but it was only in 2007 that Robert A. Emmons, Ph.D., the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, and professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, scientifically demonstrated the associations that exist between gratitude and enhanced mental, physical and relational well-being.
Expressing gratitude helps people feel good about themselves — which improves their self-esteem. It makes other people want to show gratitude too, a phenomenon known as ‘upstream reciprocity’ — the experience of gratitude may naturally lead to an expression of gratitude.
Practicing gratitude can also make lasting changes in your brains. The good news is, you can train yourself to experience thankfulness more often by simply by paying attention to your life differently.
“People who intentionally cultivate gratitude show greater neural sensitivity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a brain region associated with learning, rational thinking and decision making,” says Ellie Cobb, Ph.D., a holistic psychologist and the director of Psychology for Thankful, a social enterprise and lifestyle brand focused on gratitude.
When is it right to feel and to express gratitude?
Daily habitual activities can inspire moments of appreciation if you choose to be grateful. Choosing to appreciate people and things we get and have may require some work, particularly in thinking about why you are grateful so that you can be genuine in what you say.
When practiced in our lives authentically, gratitude can help you feel more grounded, humble, and connected to the world around you. It draws people to you. Practiced over time, you won’t even have to think about it, and you’ll see the effects on your perspective in life.
Gratitude is a skill worth cultivating, a skill you need that can build positive self-esteem and make you happy even in the midst of obstacles or pain.
Life and people can take certain things away from you, and a lot of that is out of your control — but no one can take away a grateful heart and mindset of abundance.
For those who do love journaling, consider getting a gratitude journal and use it as a place to note points of gratitude throughout the day — if it’s not for you, then do something else. Acts of gratitude should be honest and easy. Rather than being grateful because you “ought to,” you can choose gratitude as a way of looking forward to each day.
Every morning, you can set your focus on what you have — not what you don’t — by identifying at least one positive thing in your life. Concentrating on satisfying needs work better, like aspects of your health and relationships can increase levels of gratitude and happiness. You can end the day by reminding yourself of the progress you’ve made.
“Wrap up the day with a new list where you can acknowledge, and therein celebrate, every small and large undertaking that you’ve accomplished during the day. It’s a great way of reminding yourself about all you did do during the day, instead of jumping ahead and thinking about all there’s left to do,” says Chelsea Leigh Trescott, a certified life coach and the host of the podcast “Thank You Heartbreak”.
Gratitude is a practice, not a destination. Like any skill worth mastering, gratitude takes practice. When you invest the time to notice and acknowledge people and things you have, you create space and energy to draw even more positive experiences and circumstances into your life.