“If the only prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.”
– Meister Eckhart
Gratitude is something that needs to be practiced. Yes, I’m a grateful person most of the time, and maybe you are too, but we all have times where we lapse into feelings of “oh, poor me!” The great thing is that it’s so easy to turn that frown upside down…silly, but it just came to me & I had to write it! Robert A. Emmons, Professor of Psychology at UC Davis, is an expert on gratitude and has done extensive studies, along with some colleagues, on the subject. He says there is a difference between feeling grateful and the conscious choice of being grateful. In other words, illness, death, divorce, joblessness are all very stressful events in one’s life and you can acknowledge that they suck, but still cultivate gratefulness and in doing so, help the situation and your feelings about it. He continues that an attitude of gratitude is essential in getting through tough times and has the power to heal. “To say we feel grateful is not to say that everything in our lives is necessarily great. It just means we are aware of our blessings.” He offers these suggestions….
- Remember the bad: Think back to when you were at a low point and remember how far you’ve come since then.
- Re-frame the present: Don’t ignore the negativity of a painful event. Instead, find moments of gratitude — small glimmers of hope — that grew from the experience. This will help you gain perspective and encourage positivity where you least expect it.
….or maybe you’re just going about your daily life, without any turmoil or difficult event, but it’s still important to practice gratitude. Here are some suggestions that I’ve gleaned from multiple websites (and my own practice)…just doing one will be a positive experience, I promise!
- Write in a gratitude journal. Studies have shown that doing this for just 3 weeks can increase happiness by 25%
- Use a gratitude jar if you’re more of a visual person. It can be as easy as writing one word or sentence on a little slip of paper and throwing them in a mason jar (read them whenever you need a little boost)….. or throwing your lose change in a jar while thinking about something your grateful for and then donating the money to charity when the jar is full.
- Practice grateful thinking…maybe while meditating…or just while lying in bed before you start your day…or on your morning walk. You’d be amazed that by doing this simple thing, consistently, your whole outlook on life will change.
Emmons also notes that practicing gratitude directly correlates with better functioning in life by taking control of happiness. It also seems to compel people to give back to society, because they are so grateful for what they have. Basically it’s a win, win for the world in general!
…or if you need more convincing…and sometimes I just learn better from listening instead of reading something… just check out this youtube video from Emmons….
American Greetings has started a movement called the Thanklist where you can publicly thank anyone for just being a part of your life….or any other random Thank You…a tangible gesture of gratitude. I love the concept, but I’m not crazy about the fact that they have to have access to all kinds of your online info/contacts, etc in order to post a “thank you” (I guess that’s what every website does though, right?) But the idea is so awesome and why not just send a postcard or letter to someone with the same message. Not necessarily a “thank you” card, but just a “I’m thinking of you” random card. Everybody loves to get snail-mail in this highly digital age…and my (soon to be) daughter-in-law, Kate, has taught me (at the age of 54!) that it’s still so great to get a handwritten letter (I got a great one today…thanks Kate!) She has inspired me to try to write more letters…starting today….join me!
…..read this lovely article Snail Mail: The Art of Correspondence to inspire you
to put your pen to paper
You cannot direct the wind, but you can adjust the sails!