Gratitude: How you can be happier for free!
Who wants to feel like a million bucks… for free? Anyone? Well I’ve got just the thing. It’s called Gratitude and you can have right now! The more you use it, the better you’ll feel.
I know… it sounds like a gimmick, but Gratitude is fast becoming known as one of the most effective ways to improve your mood and your life…how does it work?
Practicing Gratitude shifts the way we think… it helps us take the focus off the negative, and puts it on the positive, encouraging a completely new perspective of positivity.
It’s great for improving your overall mood, but here’s a trick that I like. If there’s a part of your life that’s dragging you down, whether it’s a relationship, your job, health or anything else... you can direct your Gratitude practice to improve that specific situation. Think of it like a laser beam… but with words.
I’ll give you an example. Let’s take relationships. Let’s say you’ve got a partner who has a particular habit that really gets up your nose, like leaving a mess around the house. And although you try to be cool about it, sometimes you get overwhelmed by the mess, and whenever you think about that person, that’s what you think about... how irritated you are that they make such a mess. Considering how irritated it makes you, who could blame you for snapping once in a while? But does that make your relationship better? Not likely.
So now let’s imagine we decide to practice Gratitude about this relationship. Firstly in order to practice Gratitude, we have to force our brains to start searching for the good things, so already we’re moving our focus from the mess, to the fact that that person might actually have some positive qualities that are important to us. So… you ask yourself “what is it I’m grateful for about this person?” Are they a really good listener? Do they make you laugh like no-one else? Or are they the one person in the whole world who really understands you? Whatever it is… when we start to really think about those good qualities, it’s much easier to relax about the mess.
That’s the first gift of Gratitude. It helps us to look at any situation from a much more balanced perspective.
But here’s where the real magic begins… Now that you’re focusing on how important that person is to you, you’re going to be less likely to snap at them when they come home, and more likely to behave in a way that shows that you care and that you value them. They in turn will be more likely to behave in a loving way towards you. The more loving they are towards you, the more loving you’ll be towards them…. and there you go. You’ve kicked off the most beautiful cycle of positivity that will take your relationship from frustration to fulfilment! Well done you!
So what if we want to use Gratitude to improve our lives in general? Here’s what I recommend…
Firstly, decide if you want to start a Gratitude journal, or if you’d like to practice verbally. Pick a time of the day that could become a habit for you like first thing in the morning, or last thing at night… whatever suits you.
Then, instead of just writing a list of all of the things that you SHOULD be grateful for (making a long but meaningless list) take a moment to think about how you’re actually feeling. What do you feel grateful for in that moment? It’s much more effective to name one meaningful thing than to list 10 things that you don’t really feel connected to. So for example you might feel grateful for your family.
Now take this answer and go even further asking why you’re grateful for it. This step is really important… it allows us to verbalise a much deeper level of emotion.
Here’s another example.
The other day I did the practice myself and it was in a moment when I was feeling a bit emotionally fragile about some pretty big challenges that I’m facing. I wasn’t overflowing with joy and gratitude, which for me, signals that it’s the perfect time to practice Gratitude.
So I took the time to think about what I really felt grateful for. The first thing that came to my mind was my mum. So then I asked ‘why?’ It took a moment to find the words to describe how I was feeling, but I realised that I was grateful for the fact that I could have honest, open conversations with her about emotionally challenging issues. And that’s a huge deal for me. It ranks as one of the most valuable things in my life.
So how did this exercise help me? Well I was still in the same position of having my pretty big challenges to deal with, of course, but instead of having a sense of helplessness about it, I felt a huge sense of support and a growing sense that I could cope with whatever comes my way.
That’s what Gratitude gives us. It’s not going to fix everything in your life like a magic wand, but it can give you the insight to see things as they really are. It shines a light on all of the gifts in our life that we normally don’t see. And seeing those gifts will make you feel stronger, more resilient, more loving…. And the list goes on.
So, what do you think? Want to give it a try?
I bet that if you start practicing, you’ll see that just like me, you are supported, and loved, and safe. And that, my friend, will make you feel happier!