By Annmarie Rodriguez || Simply put, gratitude is the quality of being thankful. Though the word may evoke mixed feelings, or bad memories of being pressured by an overly optimistic relative or friend, it (in its most authentic form) has the ability to positively alter the way we think and perceive the world around us. Gratitude is not meant to mask difficult scenarios. Rather, it can provide a lens for us to view life more holistically—taking in the good with the bad.
I'm not always the first to admit it, but Mom may have been on to something...
My Mom grew up in Guyana, a developing nation in South America. Throughout my childhood, she constantly reminded my brothers and I to be thankful. This included all the great food we had because "back in Guyana" (a frequently used household phrase) all they had to eat for lunch were two slices of bread and one slice of meat. Food is absolutely something worth being thankful for, but sometimes this constant reminder made cultivating an attitude of gratitude feel forced or insincere. Maturity has brought perspective and I've been able to practice gratitude in a more genuine and regular way. This behavior shift has had a positive effect on my quality of life.
Thankfulness is linked to happiness as well as other physiological benefits. Science shows that gratitude helps people cope with stress and promotes optimism which boosts your immune system. There are many studies that verify these claims.
As noted in our previous post, ‘Setting Goals for the Life You Want,’ Darrell Jones is a great example of someone who believes deliberate living requires thoughtful and diligent action. Through this philosophy he has worked towards, developed and acquired many life-giving habits.
One of them is gratitude walks:
“I have a gratitude practice every morning. I recount things for which I’m thankful,” stated Darrell. He practices this on a particular street near his work. He started by forcing himself to think of what he was grateful for. It has since grown into a habit, and even further, into a joy-filled association. “Whenever I walk along this street now, I get happy and start thinking of things I’m grateful for,” explained Darrell.
The simple act of being thankful redirects your attention away from the often too large list of things you want to do or buy. Practicing gratitude reconciles us to the truth of what is good now instead of fixating on what is, was, or might be problematic in the future.
Gratitude walks are a great way to cultivate optimism while staying active. However, if you want to try a different gratitude practice or add on a new one...
Here are some other habits to help you foster an attitude of gratitude:
Keep a Journal. Conjuring up a list mentally or physically, on paper, of what you are grateful for can seem daunting. It's often easier to think of the big things (like promotions, getting a new car or receiving an award) as worthy of gratitude and forget the small or seemingly obvious. Making thankfulness a habit brings to light the reality of how wonderful what we do or have actually is.
Write letters or send emails to people you are thankful for. This habit reaps benefits well worth the time and effort it takes to write and send a note.
Set an alarm on your phone or laptop to remind you to pause and be grateful. This habit has the ability to positively influence mood and increase productivity.
Create a Gratitude Jar. Keep a jar, pad of paper, and pen nearby your desk or bed. Write down a few things you’re thankful for each day and put them in the jar. At the end of each week or month, take a few minutes to sit and read through them. Need help being accountable? Do it with a friend or loved one. You might find yourself pleasantly surprised at how much your jar overflows.
Whether you try one of our suggestions or create your own way to pause and appreciate life, we hope you enjoy the bounty of what a grateful heart and a positive mind can produce.