Sometimes it is easy to get caught up in the rushing and even chaos of life these days. Maybe that is when you need to be grateful the most. Taking that moment to be grateful for what you saw on your morning drive, how your kids are all healthy, the wonderful little things people in your life do for you, and even those take-for-granted things like clean water and enough food on the table today.
Now granted, being grateful is not going to make the rushing slow down or the chaos go away. But psychological research suggests that when being grateful becomes a habit, it actually does have tangible benefits in your life. You will be more able to survive the hard times, and are more able to truly enjoy those happy times in your life
Here are some tips on how to become more grateful:
Think about death or tragic loss every once in a while. At first this may seem like an odd way to feel more grateful. But consider this, when you contemplate some of the possible worst-case scenarios in your life, you come to really appreciate that none of that happened. You can really feel more grateful for what is right there, today, in your life.
Take the time to stop and appreciate the little things. You know, take the time to smell the roses, appreciate that first cup of coffee, the fresh bread right out of the oven, whatever gives you pleasure in a day. Research shows that appreciating the positive in your life actually creates a stronger connection in your brain, and this increases the benefits to your mental state. Especially when you couple that experience, smell, hug, with a ritual – the connection is even stronger. And then people tend to pay more attention to that little thing even more so.
Consider these good things as a gift, not an entitlement. If you feel that you are entitled to all those good, and great, things in your life, you can sometimes miss appreciating their benefits to your life. If you feel that you are owed things, attention, compensation from others, you may not have much reason to be grateful when they are offered. We are all interconnected. No man is an island. What you do affects others. A humble and grateful person alternates between being the giver and being the receiver, and understands that there is much to be grateful for rather than expecting it to be there.
Be grateful for the people in your life, not just the things. Being grateful for the things themselves doesn’t actually affect the well-being of that particular thing, no matter how delicious that chocolate may be. But being grateful to the people, and expressing that gratitude to them, does have an effect on others. People appreciate a ‘thank you’, ‘couldn’t have done it without you’, ‘you are important to me’ in a way that no Thing will ever comprehend. It can strengthen social bonds, makes the other person feel more worthwhile, and deepens our interconnection with others. Being grateful builds more trust and affection in your relationships, and you become even more deeply connected to your social community.
Be specific of what you are grateful for to that person. Being specific about your appreciation of that first cup of coffee from the barista, gratitude for the foot-rub after a long, hard day, or gratitude for all the hugs you received from your kids makes the expression of being grateful feel more authentic to that person who gifted you. It reveals that the person saying ‘thank you’ was aware and paying attention. Which then motivates the giver to continue doing what means so much to you. And who wouldn’t want more of what makes you feel loved and appreciated?
Be grateful for those things, people, situations that actually caused you to grow. The boyfriend who dumped you and which made you stronger, the boss who had to lay you off when the economy lagged and you started your own business, the street person asking for change and that gave you the opportunity to find compassion for another person. It is certainly much easier to be grateful for the ‘good’ stuff. Being grateful during the rough times can help to turn what first appears as a disaster or tragedy into a stepping stone towards something even better. Even though it may not seem easy at first to be grateful for the sorrow, pain, or disappointments, you can usually find something that you gained from that experience to be grateful about. It indicates a willingness to recognize the strength and power you have to turn an obstacle into an opportunity. It means changing your thinking from loss to a possible gain.
Try using these tips to feeling grateful every day, for everything, and especially for everyone in your life.