It’s that time of year where many people begin thinking about everything they have to be thankful for. Although it’s nice to count your blessings on Thanksgiving, being thankful throughout the year could have tremendous benefits on your quality of life.
Gratitude may actually be one of the most overlooked tools that we have access to every day. Best of all, cultivating gratitude is free, it doesn’t take much time, and the benefits are enormous.
Research has shown that people who consciously choose to seek out things in their daily lives to be thankful for are happier and healthier.
I agree with Robert Emmons, an expert on the subject of gratitude. He practices gratitude by continually thinking about:
- People who have done things for you that you could never do for yourself.
- Who is looking out for you, who has your back, who has made your life easier because of their sacrifices?
- Who and what do you take for granted?
This way, gratitude becomes, real, concrete, and personal. We all have people like that in our lives. He makes mental lists of these and tries to think about ways in which he can give back some of the goodness he has received.
This way of thinking helps to become less self-absorbed and more absorbed by the good that others are doing for us.
Here are a few other ways to cultivate gratitude.
Write a thank-you note. You can make yourself happier and nurture your relationship with another person by writing a thank-you letter expressing your enjoyment and appreciation of that person's impact on your life. Send it, or better yet, deliver and read it in person if possible. Make a habit of sending at least one gratitude letter a month. Once in a while, write one to yourself.
Thank someone mentally. No time to write? It may help just to think about someone who has done something nice for you and mentally thank the individual.
Keep a gratitude journal. Make it a habit to write down or share with a loved one thoughts and reflections about the gifts received for each day.
Count your blessings. Pick a time every week to sit down and write about your blessings — reflecting on what went right or what you are grateful for. Sometimes it helps to pick a number — such as three to five things — that you will identify each week. As you write, be specific and think about the sensations you felt when something good happened to you.
Pray. People who are religious can use prayer to cultivate gratitude.
Meditate. Mindfulness meditation involves focusing on the present moment without judgment. Focus on what you're grateful for.
When life is going well, being grateful allows us to celebrate and appreciate the goodness. When life is going badly, it provides a perspective from which we can view life in its entirety and not be overwhelmed by temporary circumstances.
Gratitude helps me be less self-absorbed, more humble and appreciate life as it is. Some days this practice is better than other days. Keeping this stream of consciousness can only improve this ratio.