Last year around this time, I wrote a post on 4 ways to practice gratitude. With it being almost Thanksgiving and all, what better time to revisit the topic of gratitude. Research suggests that our perceptions of reality affect our mood and overall happiness. Gratitude is quite important when it comes to happiness and is connected to perception. I'd argue that without gratitude, you can't be truly happy. If you think about it, no amount of money, no amount of possessions, experiences, or relationships can make us happy if we aren't grateful for them. I could be the wealthiest person in the world with amazing relationships, and a lifestyle where I travel the world spreading my wealth and doing good for others but if I don't feel grateful for what I have or the life I live, that life can't make me happy. Gratitude really is a key to happiness. I have some terrible, no good, very bad days in which my thoughts totally go to the dark side and include a long stream of complaints about my life, never mind the fact that I love my job, have amazing friends, family, and husband. Those days, I fail to recognize the things I have to be grateful for, and instead focus on whatever events have triggered my negative thoughts. Those with less may look at me on any of the bad days and wonder how the heck I could be upset with all that I have. Bad days are just part of the equation of living a human life. We can't feel happy 100% of the time, but increasing our thoughts and feelings of gratitude sure can't hurt. Is it possible to feel gratitude and despair at the same time? I'm not sure. We may be able to feel gratitude and pain, or gratitude and sadness at the same time, but I do think that if you feel gratitude, you're much more likely to feel happy, or at least contented, or at the very least, hopeful. Gratitude, like meditation, can be practiced and strengthened. It's a muscle we can develop, a skill we can improve.
Below are a four ways to practice gratitude this year:
- Say it out loud! Tell people 'thank you' when they've done something kind. Tell those you love how much they mean to you, how much you love them even if it's difficult to express your emotions. Talk about the things you're grateful for each night or at the end of the week with your significant other, family member, friend, or child. Speaking about it can make the things you're grateful for seem more real, and give you good practice at recognizing the little things.
- Say grace. Start each meal with a moment of gratitude for the food, or the animal that gave its life (if you're a meat eater), or for the farmers who produced the plants you're about to eat. Maybe there really is something to saying 'grace' before a meal. Taking a moment to remember where our food came from and how lucky we are to have such abundance is a great practice, and one which can be implemented multiple times/day.
- Gratitude walks. Watch this short video here for more info about gratitude walks. Basically, go for walks in which you identify and say to yourself, or the person you're with, things you feel grateful for. Include in your list, those which you don't have yet, but want to attract into your life. For example, if I wanted to have a little family in a cottage we owned, I would name those things as if I already had them, and express gratitude for my sweet little baby and our cozy home.
- Creative expression. For some, art or creative expression, works more effectively. Photographers, could create a picture collage of things they're grateful for, poets, a poem, painters create pictures, collagers use magazine clippings to create a gratitude vision board, etc. Draw pictures, use symbols, write about it on Instagram. Record your gratitude creatively however you see fit.
Part I of our 4 ways to practice gratitude can be found here. Remember, gratitude is something that can be practiced and improved. It's crucial to our happiness, and many believe the more you feel grateful for, the more positive things will be attracted into your life. Happy holidays everyone!!