Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, it’s a readiness to show appreciation and to return kindness to others. The impact gratitude can have on your life is profound. Being grateful has been linked to experiencing fewer stress related illnesses, having healthier relationships, increased self-esteem and improved decision making.
Having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ alone is not enough. In Brene Brown’s brilliant book – The Power of Vulnerability, she discusses that having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is a bit like having an ‘attitude of yoga’ – you can own yoga clothes and live in your yoga pants, you could even own a yoga mat, but unless you are practising yoga regularly, you will not be very good at yoga. It’s the same with gratitude, unless you are practising gratitude in some way on the daily, you will not reap the benefits of it.
It’s human nature to focus on the negatives, we evolved this way. Our brains are wired up to react more strongly to negativity, we have a negativity bias. That’s for good reason – this bias was once essential for our survival. Our survival depended on recognising danger and noticing it so we could respond appropriately to the danger and survive.
However, if you’re reading this then the chances are, you are fortunate enough to live somewhere that doesn’t pose immediate threat to your survival. Our brains don’t necessarily know this and will still pay too much attention to negative events. Have you ever noticed that you can let one rude person or one inconvenience ruin an otherwise perfectly lovely day? Well that’s your brains negativity bias.
This is why we must practise looking for the positives and pay attention to them, because our brain doesn’t do this naturally. To feel more grateful start by looking for the good things in your life – really pay attention and appreciate them. Next, you need to express this gratitude. You could start by using the power of 3 and thinking of 3 things you are grateful for every day.
You can take this one step further and write down your thoughts. I do this, I absolutely love my gratitude journal – every morning I write down 3 things I am grateful for. I try to keep it specific to the past 24 hours, but don’t always. I try to think of the little things but sometimes I’ll write down the bigger things I’m always grateful for.
You can also try including gratitude practices throughout the day. Find a time of day or a place where you can pause and express gratitude. Many people do this before eating, or before they go to sleep.
I think practising gratitude is one of the easiest ways to improve every aspect of your life. If you want to be happy, be grateful.