When I sit down and analyze most of my days, it seems that I am bombarded by hundreds of pieces of bad news for every 1 piece of good news. This constant harassment by the world can quickly take its toll and turn even the most positive person into a grumpy world-hater. Not only is grumpiness annoying to those around you, but it really and truly has an impact on your ability to succeed.
"Accept that your view of today shapes your tomorrow" - Edward Kiledjian
So how do you counter this modern day affliction? Through gratitude!
What are the benefits of gratitude?
What's in it for you? Good question. Research and experience show that gratitude has 3 direct benefits to practitioners: physical, psychological and relational. We'll talk about how to implement gratitude in your life but assuming you do it wholeheartedly for at least 21 days, here are some of the benefits you could experience:
- longer and more restful sleep
- increased desire to exercise and make healthier life decisions decisions
- Reduction in stress which leads to dozens of benefits including lowering blood pressure & improvement in bodily functions (cortisol is bad)
- In some studies, testers even reported a reduction in physical pain
- More optimistic
- Enjoys more situations with positive emotional impact (more of the good, less of the bad)
- More energy
Become more connected to your friends, family and loved ones
Become more connected to your social net
Achieve more of the zen qualities (more forgiving, more generous. more compassionate, etc)
Overall you become a better person and the world around you notices.
As you become happier and better, you get more of the fuel to become happier and better.
Appreciate the simple everyday gifts
Since we were little, we have been thought to always want more: more money, more things, more recognition, etc. This often conditions us to ignore what we have today and concentrate on what we demand from life in the future.
As an example, an employee may be upset that he isn't getting a cost of living adjustment, but ignores the fact that many friends working at competitors are getting laid off. Instead of being grateful for the job, he spends all his energy on being upset that the company "screwed him" and that the "company doesn't appreciate him". He doesn't realize that by cutting the COLA, the company may have saved dozens of employee jobs (maybe even his job). All of this negative thinking will impact the quality of his work which may eventually lead to him getting terminated for substandard performance.
Gratitude doesn't mean you have to settle for second best but it does change your perspective. Do you appreciate the fact that you have a roof over your head, food on the table and a loving family?
What would happen if you lost your house, couldn't put food on the table and lost your family? This is a powerful exercise where you imagine losing everything you take for granted then slowly bring each one back and think about what it means to have that element in your life.
Imagine you lost your house and didn't have a roof over your head. How would that change your life? How would you feel? Really close your eyes and play this game with me. Imagine how you would feel if you didn't have a house. Try to live those emotions. Now imagine having your house. How does this feel? What are you grateful for by having a house?
Its a great exercise to periodically play this game with the main elements around you. Really get an appreciation for how lucky you are for having some of these elements you have been taking for granted all this time.
This will "force" you to be happy as you are with what you have. You won't need the next big think to be happy (which will bring temporary happiness anyway). Have you ever said:
- I'll be happy when I finally get that promotion.
- I'll be happy when I finally find my soulmate.
- I'll finally be happy when I can buy a house with a pool
Most of us have thought about at least one of the above in our lives and it is just proof that we need to retrain ourselves to be thankful for what we have.
A drug addict is always thinking about his next fix. He isn't happy in the moment and is only satisfied when he finally get's that next hit. Of course the satisfaction from the hit quickly wears off and he goes back to thinking about the next hit. In order to generate that feeling of satisfaction, each hit has to be just a little bit stronger.
Many of us live our lives like this. I'll be happy when I finally get that raise. When you get the raise, you are happy for a while then start thinking about everything you can do with more money and push for another bigger raise. You become unhappy in the now and falsely believe that if you just had a little bit more money, it would make everything good. But it won't. True happiness comes from the inside.
"If the onIy prayer you say in your life is ‘thank you,’ that would suffice." Eckhart Tolle
How to practice gratitude
There are many ways to help you be more thankful. One useful, powerful and simple method was spearheaded by a minister in Kansas City called Will Bowen. He asked his followers to go without complaining, criticizing or gossiping for 21 days. Many self-help authors and coaches recommend the same practice. It is done with the hope that you will retrain your mind into seeing more good around you. It seems simple but it is powerful.
Another common tool is the gratitude journal. The concept is that you write down ,every day, 3 to 10 items for which you are grateful. again I recommend you do this for at least 21 days to start seeing the positive impact this will have on your life.
My third recommendation is to start a gratitude jar. Everyday, take the 1-2 most powerful items you are grateful of from your gratitude journal and write them down (individually) on a small piece of paper and place in a jar. Anytime you feel down, overwhelmed or "sick of life", open the jar and pull out one of the gratitude slips. You will see how much of an impact this has.
Everything in this article is simple. Sometimes we falsely believe that simple means ineffective, but nothing is further from the truth. I have helped large multinational conglomerates turn around their fortunes by implementing simple, easy and basic concepts.
The only requirement to benefit from gratitude is a willingness to try it with an open mind. Why not start now?