Practicing Gratitude

Gratitude is an important aspect for a healthy and fulfilling life. Too often we take for granted what is around us and don’t take the time to really pause and appreciate what we have. We tend to focus on tension and stress and those things that we lack. It’s easy for us to let things go by unnoticed in our daily lives. This can lead to unhappiness. Gratitude for the things we have and appreciation for what is in front of us can lead to a healthier immune system, enhance optimism, and foster our individual happiness.  We should all focus more on that for which we are grateful. We will feel better and more fulfilled in our lives. Gratitude can help us focus and appreciate what we have in our lives instead of focusing on “what is missing.”  And, when we are truly grateful, things don’t feel “missing” and we will feel fulfilled. Gratitude can transform a sour mood into one of joy.  While we cannot manufacture emotions, we can work to form a habit of focusing on all the good things in our lives and bettering ourselves. Forming this habit can strengthen your sense of self, your self-worth, increase your happiness and strengthen your relationships with loved ones.

Gratitude can also enhance our mental health and release natural endorphines to help better cope with pain, and stress, and help block out negative emotions and help us sleep. Healthy appreciation and gratitude habits can be a natural and FREE way to increase health. Daily gratitude habits will cause our brain nuerons to “rewire” and automatically fire into more positive automatic patterns. The more we practice gratitude in daily life, the more our mind will more readily find things to be grateful for and the easier it will be to appreciate things in our life.

It’s like the old saying “appreciate the little things in life,” and it truly rings true. I’ve been practicing daily gratitude techniques every morning for the past month. Every morning I reflect on 5 things or people that I am grateful for and I thank God for placing those things in my life. It has helped me reduce my anxiety and stress, and to find happiness even when things in my life have disrupted, changed, and caused sadness and loss.

So many of us find ourselves every day saying things like “I wish” or “I want,” and we find ourselves seeking out what we think is “missing” in our lives, wishing and wanting for more. When we focus on what we lack, whether it be materialistic, or otherwise, we find ourselves in states of unhappiness and  miss out on the amazing things that we do have in our lives.  These types of thoughts cause us to seek out that new shiny video game system we’ve been wanting, or to seek out that high paying job or that perfect relationship that will make us “whole.”

When we find the next new thing we want, we are happy for a while, but it doesn’t usually last because shiny new toys don’t hold our attention forever, no job is perfect, and no relationship is without challenge. We then find ourselves in this circular cycle of wanting what’s missing, thinking we’ve found it, only to find ourselves wanting something else.

This is a hard cycle to break, and one I know I’ve fallen into many times. Gratitude and appreciation for what is going well and what is good in our lives can help break the cycle, but it’s a state of mind that most of us, myself included, probably need to train ourselves to achieve. Focusing on what is good in our lives, and not what is bad will turn us back to a state of joy and happiness.

All of us have relationships, whether they be family, friends, or significant others. Too often we take these relationships for granted.  We think that the other people know how grateful we are for them, but we don’t always share our gratitude to others. We should though because this will strengthen the relationship. One area where we often fail in this is with romantic relationships. Once the honeymoon phase ends, we get caught up in life, and tend to forget about our partners positive traits and it takes a conscious effort to remind ourselves, and our partners why we are grateful for them. Doing this daily not only boosts our individual happiness, but will increase our partners mood, and make them feel loved and appreciated. This is true with our relationships with our parents, our siblings, our children, and our friends as well.  We should all strive to live a mindful life of appreciation for ourselves and others and show those we love that appreciation every day.

Life so often throws us curve balls, and doesn’t always want to follow whatever plan we had in our heads. It is easy to be appreciative and grateful when things are going well in life, but it is so much harder when things aren’t going well. In the face of challenges, losses, adversity, and hardships we become filled with stress, sadness, anxiety, and fear. There is seemingly no room for gratefulness. How can I be grateful when so many things are going wrong? I’ve fallen into this trap many times over the years. But even in times of hardship, we can be grateful and we can learn from each setback, Through mistakes we learn lessons, through pain we can learn patience, through loss we can learn resilience, and compassion. Even when life feels more negative than positive we can make the effort to find gratitude and focus on the good. I’ve found blessings in every major step back in my life (though sometimes it took a few years to see it) and I’ve grown stronger and better through each broken relationship. I’ve lost great friends and great loves, but I’ve learned and grown from each loss.

The greatest thing that I’ve learned through all of life’s hardships is self-acceptance. For most of us, we are our own worst critics. We judge ourselves for our emotions, we feel guilty for our failings and we berate our own humanity. But we are all imperfect works in progress. Rather than focusing on our negative emotions and aspects of our self that we don’t like, we need to focus on all the amazing qualities that we have and I guarantee that the positive qualities outweigh the negatives. By focusing on what we love about ourselves, we can better focus on improving the areas in our lives that we want to improve. Dwelling on our imperfections will just breed more unhappiness, but being grateful for our positive qualities will make us feel more fulfilled.

Every day I reflect on all the things and all the people that I am grateful for.  I try to focus on what is right in front of me and all around me and appreciate it all. Noticing the little things in life are truly words to live by. By living a life of appreciation and gratitude, we can strive to become the most perfect version of our imperfect self.

One thought on “Practicing Gratitude

  1. A poignant reminder that it’s okay to be imperfect and that, while plagued with difficult moments, we all have a lot to be thankful for.

    Like

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