When you live your life as though everything in it is a miracle, you’re experiencing gratitude. Gratitude makes even the mundane amazing, and the amazing even more so. The greatest state of gratitude lies in thankfulness and appreciation, and manifests itself as satisfaction and happiness with your life.
Simply by giving thanks, you are exercising the power of gratitude, and you will reap its rewards. You will become a happier, more productive, more positive person. Gratitude will not make you a perfect person, but it will transform you into a far better person. Simply by regularly exercising gratitude, your life can be altered positively and immediately.
Psychologist Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis conducted an experiment about gratitude and its influence upon wellbeing. Splitting several hundred people into three separate groups, all kept daily diaries. The first group kept a diary of daily events without being told to write about good or bad things. The second group documented their unpleasant experiences, and the third group noted things for which they felt gratitude.
The results of the study determined that daily gratitude exercises produced elevated levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism and energy. Members of the gratitude group underwent less depression and stress, were more apt to help others, exercised more often, and accomplished greater strides toward reaching personal goals.
Dr. Emmons determined that practicing gratitude can elevate happiness levels by approximately 25 percent. Just as there’s a certain weight that your body endeavors to maintain, your basic happiness level is set at a pre-programmed point. If something unpleasant occurs during the day, your happiness can temporarily drop, but then returns to its inherent set-point. By practicing gratitude, your “happiness set-point” rises so that you can attain a higher level of happiness despite outside circumstances.
You can incorporate gratitude into your life by having a daily morning gratitude session. Take one small minute to remember the people who have extended kindness to you and all of the things in your life that you’re grateful for. Of course, you won’t have time to include everything for which you’re grateful, but this practice will immediately improve your day, and assist you in starting the day off right.
People tend to take for granted the good things that are in their lives. So imagine losing some of the things you take for granted — your car, your home, your ability to see — or anything that gives you security and wellbeing. Then envision getting each of these things back, and how grateful you’d be for each one.
You can also practice gratitude by appreciating the small things in your life, instead of reserving gratitude for big things such as getting married, getting a promotion, or having a baby.
When you’re having a difficult day, make a gratitude list. We’ve all experienced those days when work stresses us out, someone yells at us, we lose a loved one or we’ve worked on an unsuccessful project. Listing all the things you’re thankful for can brighten up a bad day. There are always things for which you can express gratitude, including your health, your job, your home and your clothes.
Rather than getting angry at someone, show gratitude instead. This is a tough one to do, but instead of getting angry, dig deep and come up with reasons why you’re grateful for that person. Find anything, even if it’s not easy. If you concentrate on the things that make you grateful, your mood will slowly shift, and if you get into a good enough mood, you may surprise yourself and end up showing gratitude directly to that person.
The same theory applies to a significant other. If you’re constantly critical of your spouse, your marriage will end up suffering. When you feel the impulse to criticize, think instead about all of the reasons why you’re grateful for your significant other. Then, as soon as possible, share that gratitude with them, and your bond will become stronger.
Parents often get frustrated with their children. Unfortunately, parents will convey this exasperation to their children, who, in turn, will feel bad about themselves. Instead, heed the method of calming yourself down when you’re annoyed, reminding yourself about the reasons you’re grateful for your child. Communicate these reasons to your child, utilizing the conversation as a means of teaching them, rather than criticizing them.
When events don’t go the way you’d hoped they would, remember that within the mountain of rocks there is a ruby of an equal or greater benefit. During times of hardship, ask yourself, “What is good about this? What can I learn from this? How can I benefit from this?” Many people interpret difficulty as a bad thing, and will see it as a time to complain and indulge in self-pity. Don’t go that route. Transform yourself from a complainer into a positive person on a path of improvement — transform yourself into a person of gratitude.