Do you ever notice how some people are just happier than others? One friend can be faced with terrible circumstances and still have a positive outlook, while another is consistently negative, no matter how well things in his or her life are going.
The difference between the two could be how grateful they are. People who are grateful often are associated with being happier. Practicing gratitude can change our perspective of the world. It can change our mood, how we treat others, impact our productivity, and ultimately, change our lives.
You know the saying, “misery loves company”? Well, focusing on the negative things around us just breeds more negativity — our brain creates connections based upon what we think about. Likewise, focusing on positivity and gratitude breeds more positivity and gratitude. When we start paying attention to all of the good things in our lives, the bad things fade into the background.
Let’s face it. Sometimes life is hard. People we care about get sick. Our spouses lose their jobs. We fight with our family. We lose loved ones. There never seems to be enough money to pay the bills. Even in these difficult circumstances, there is always something for which to be grateful.
So how can we practice gratitude and change our lives for the better? One trick is to start each day by listing five things we are grateful for. They can be small, seemingly insignificant things, like a good night’s rest or shoes on our feet. Focusing on simple things each day will help shift our perspective and remind us of all the good things in our lives. Chances are there are a lot more than we realized.
Include people on that list, too. Of course our spouses, kids, and mothers can all drive us up the wall, but we also love them and are grateful to have them in our lives. Include best friends or an awesome hairstylist, or even your puppy. It’s your list and we can put on it whatever or whomever we are grateful for.
Like any skill or activity, the more we practice something, the better we will get at it. The more we practice gratitude, the easier it will become. It might be difficult to find five things to think of that first day or even that whole first week, but eventually, it will get easier. Soon enough, we will be going through our day and making mental notes of things we can add to our gratitude list for the next day and the day after.
In time, gratitude will shift from being a form of expression to becoming an attitude. Instead of thinking of things to add to our list, we will start to feel grateful. We will begin to view circumstances and people differently. We will begin to feel grateful for our spouses and kids, and they may not irritate us as easily. We will begin to see the silver lining in bad situations.
Practicing gratitude consistently will eventually change our lives. Gratitude will make us more positive. It will make us better friends, spouses, parents, and employees. And it will make our lives much more enjoyable.
Photo by Chelsea Gabriel, available under a Creative Commons attribution license