Here’s something you might know but keep way-way back there in a small drawer in your mind that you rarely open: When you spend too much time thinking about what you don’t have, you develop a sense of lack.
This can cause all sorts of mental anguish, which you then act out. Your perception of lack acted out might look lead to you walking around looking burdened or hiding away in your cubicle trying to do the bare minimum (because “these folks ain’t paying me enough!”). Whatever way you express this sense of lack, there is an energy that accompanies it, and this energy may cost you professionally and personally.
There is not a lot of employers who are promoting people with bad attitudes.
Why choose gratitude
Being grateful for the things and situations we have, even if they’re not perfect, makes us feel more hopeful and have the energy to make what’s not perfect better. Being grateful is tuning out the critical “Not Enough” station that plays in most people’s heads and unconsciously leads to self-doubt, fears, anxieties, and worse, depression and stress. By providing positive emotions, like contentment and joy, gratitude helps to drive out bitchiness, fear, and lack. And we can all do with less of those emotions, can’t we? Try feeling bad when you’re grateful. You can’t. Ha!
Gratitude changes our luck
This lucky more hopeful spirit makes us more proactive and productive. But, we first need to acknowledge what we have, not just think positive… That’s where having a practice comes in. Without practice, it’s easy to forget and go back to our old thought process. Without a gratitude practice, we may forget that we’re part of a great big universe and that the little things we get hung up on, are not that important in the big scheme of things.
The science of gratitude
In two studies with 243 total participants, those who were 10% more grateful than average had 17.5% more social capital, meaning people liked them better. But of course! Gratitude has been found to help us live in the moment more and improve our mental and emotional health.
Benefits of gratitude
- More social and outgoing
- More friendships
- Deeper relationships
- Healthier marriage
- More good feelings
- More relaxed
- Less Envious
- More resilient
- Happier memories
- Less materialistic
- Less self-centered
- More optimistic
- Increased self-esteem
- More spiritual
- Better management
- Improved networking
- Improved decision-making
- Increased productivity
- Goal achievement
- Improved sleep
- Fewer illnesses
- More exercise
- Increased energy
What to expect
Hopefully, I’ve convinced you that having a gratitude practice is worth your while and you’re going to give it a genuine try. Yay! A couple of things keep in mind: Your practice won’t always feel “right” Some people report that when they first started their practice, it felt weird and inauthentic; not quite them! By sticking to it though and making it their own, they were able to minimize or eliminate a number of issues like anxiety and insomnia.
The practice doesn’t magically block bad experiences When everything is going wrong in your life, you might question the value of your practice. How come I’m grateful and my life still has ups and downs? It’s natural to question whether it’s worth it. The practice doesn’t eliminate bad experiences and bad feelings. It makes it easier to deal with them. Stressful situations and days are part of everyone’s life, but those who ride the wave calmly, make their journeys easier.
How to start your practice
- There’s an app for that! Entrepreneur, health coach and model Miranda Kerr use the Gratitude Journal app every day, and I’m sure you can find other apps if technological assist is something you like, or if for you, that is an easy place for you to start.
- Go low-tech If you suffer from anxiety or have sleep problems, you may NOT want to use an app. The low-tech approach of writing (journaling) or gratitude meditation may be more beneficial for you.
- Schedule it A great time to schedule your practice is right before you go to bed. Just don’t wait until you’re SO tired and ready to pass out to do it. You should have enough presence for your practice to be effective. I do it as part of my bedtime routine: I do a 5-minute gratitude meditation and when I have the time, combine it with reading. It’s one of my favorite ways to end the day. Instead of focusing on what didn’t go right with my day, I think more about what did and I feel better for it.
- Test drive a gratitude practice, take Vurb’s Gratitude Challenge
Quotes on gratitude:
Gratitude is the recognition that life owes me nothing and all the good I have is a gift. ― Robert Emmons
Opportunities, relationships, even money flowed my way when I learned to be grateful no matter what happened in my life. — Oprah Winfrey
Often people ask how I manage to be happy despite having no arms and no legs. The quick answer is that I have a choice. I can be angry about not having limbs, or I can be thankful that I have a purpose. I chose gratitude. ― Nick Vujicic
Every day, I like to wake up and remind myself to be grateful of the simple things. — Miranda Kerr
Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. ― William Arthur Ward
In ordinary life, we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich. ― Dietrich Bonhoeffe
Learn to be thankful for what you already have, while you pursue all that you want.” — Jim Rohn
One last note
While practicing gratitude is highly beneficial, pretending you’re not hurting when you are, isn’t. There’s a difference between making a big deal about normal and manageable situations and ignoring important feelings, gut instincts, and the need to change or speak up for ourselves. Practices like gratitude will help you develop the emotional energy to stay clear and present during stressful times. It won’t necessarily help you become fearless, but it will help you to have less fear.
Christine is a Life Strategist and Emotional Health Coach living in Los Angeles. She's big on meditation and believes in systems and routines, and in personalizing everything you do to help you get where you want to be.