Looking for Happiness?
Of course you are! We all are.
What is the key to finding it?
Could it be gratitude?
Last week for Thanksgiving I posted 21 Gratitude Quotes. It is amazing we have a holiday that is set aside to be thankful for the abundance in our lives. I love Thanksgiving for just that reason. We celebrate family and the things we are thankful for. No craziness, no buying sprees….just gratitude. It’s become my favorite holiday over the last few years. And now, I want to live Thanksgiving everyday!
In 2001, I wanted to experience gratitude. I had been reading The Artist’s Way. I was reading about the many ways to bring abundance into your life. One way was to write in a “gratitude journal”. So, I began to write in one. However, after 2 or 3 weeks I stopped. I kept being grateful for the same things every time I wrote. Even though I was very appreciative and thankful for my life, I didn’t get gratitude quite yet. I wasn’t ready. Next I read Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy by Sarah Ban Breathnach. I just loved this and got a little closer to the meaning of gratitude
So now, years later, I’m contemplating gratitude again. I know it’s easy to feel gratitude when everything is going your way. What is difficult is to find gratitude during the hard times. I’ve had four friends with cancer over the last year. They’ve all felt a huge shift in their lives, more joy and peace and a great appreciation for what they have to lose! I realize that I don’t want to wait for something like cancer to happen or a family tragedy to feel gratitude for the life I have.
Many of us are thankful for the things in our life. Yet, gratitude is much more than being thankful. Thankfulness is an expression of happiness. Being thankful is telling someone you appreciate what they have done. Being thankful is being glad it didn’t rain on picnic day. Being thankful is happiness from a gift.
Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is a heart-felt and intellectual acknowledgement of all that is good in your life. It’s embracing uncertainty. To feel gratitude towards the bad things that have happened to us knowing that will lead you a new opportunity.”
In our society we’re taught to concentrate on what we don’t have. I call this “Scarcity Thinking”. Scarcity thinking is the opposite of gratitude. What you think is what you bring into your life. If you think scarcity then you have lack. When you practice gratitude, scarcity thinking disappears. You concentrate on what you do have. Remind yourself that you are not lacking. You have such abundance in your life! Did you know that? I love what Oprah said in a recent life class about scarcity and gratitude: “Focus on the $3 you do have in your wallet instead of focusing on the $50 you don’t have.”
There are many benefits to practicing gratitude:
• You will experience peace of mind and more optimism, suffer less stress, be more satisfied with life, less materialistic, often feel more spiritual, regardless of religion.
• It’s great for your family or children to see your positive attitude and that you appreciate the little things. Did you know that everyday you’re teaching your children to be good parents? Did you know that they will copy your behavior as adults? A study showed that “children who practice grateful thinking have more positive attitudes toward school and their families” (Froh, Sefick, & Emmons, 2008). Last year at our preschool we had “Nice Wednesday” where everyone complimented each other. You should have seen them smile when they got compliments, even though they thought it was like a game. They still felt warm and loved.
• Gratitude is great for all relationships. Feeling gratitude for friends, family or business associates makes your relationship stronger. It may seem like a simple thing but saying thank you really makes everyone feel better! You can be general about your thank you or quite specific.
• There are physical benefits. Grateful people tend to exercise more and experience better health. Author and researcher Dr. Robert Emmons conducted an experimental comparison. Those who kept gratitude journals on a weekly basis exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who recorded hassles or neutral life events (Emmons & McCullough, 2003)
How does one practice gratitude? It’s a habit like anything else. Just as a negative thoughts can strongly influence your mood, so can a positive feeling of gratitude affect your day.
Here are 7 ways to help you make gratitude a habit:
1. Have a morning gratitude practice before you get out of bed. Begin each thought with the words, “I am…”
• First, start off being thankful for your breath, clean water and shelter. Many of us focus on what we don’t have. This is scarcity thinking. Concentrate on what you do have.
• Next, be grateful for your family and friends. Think of all their wonderful traits. How do they make you smile? What are the little things they do for you? What can you do for them?
• Next have gratitude for the little things like the blue sky, hot coffee, clothes. Be mindful of all the little things around you, in nature, like a spider’s web or a warm blanket. Then be grateful for the big things, your health!
2. Learn to identify ungrateful thoughts. Those thoughts might be: “I don’t deserve this.” “What went wrong?” “I’m not appreciated.” “No one helps me around here.” “Why is she so lucky?” Replace those thoughts when they appear. Count your blessings. You can’t be envious or angry when you are thinking grateful thoughts.
3. Write in a gratitude journal. Write three to five things a day that you’re grateful for using mindfulness as a tool.
4. Find time to inspire yourself. It can be quotes, inspiratioinal facebook pages, a video or a book of poetry. Just find at least a few minutes a day to be inspired. Click here to check out my daily Zen Tip on Facebook.
5. Have a Talisman, a little statue or charm that reminds you to be grateful. I have a small Ganasha that I found in Thailand that I keep by the coffee machine. Ganasha is the Hindu god of wisdom and the remover of obstacles. Each morning as I make coffee or at night when I cook, the little statue reminds me to take stock and be grateful and know anything is possible.
6. Bring gratitude to the dinner table. Have each family member say something that they are grateful for. We asked our kids to say one thing good that happened that day.
7. Now the most difficult part. Can you have gratitude for the difficulties in life? We all hear about people who eventually feel gratitude for tragedy like cancer in their lives because it’s made them look at life differently. Can you try to feel it about the little things like traffic, bad weather or big things like financial or health problems?
Have fun with it! Gratitude is such a positive emotion. It will seep into all areas of your life. I feel great gratitude for all of you readers out there! Thanks for being part of my dream to be a writer and to help others.
One last quote that sums it all up, sent to me by my friend, Galen Pearl:
“In our daily lives, we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but the gratefulness that makes us happy.”
What do you feel gratitude for? How do you experience it? I’d love to hear in the comments below!
Please watch this wonderful TED video on Gratitude. You won’t be the same after Louis Schwartzberg’s beautiful images and Brother David Steindl-Rast’s narration.
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