Gratitude. Thankfulness. We all know what those words mean, but how often do we really think about how gratitude affects us and the people around us? This time of year, gratitude and being thankful are on everyone’s mind, but practicing mindful gratitude all year long can enrich your life in ways you might not even realize.
Actively practicing gratitude is more than just reminding yourself to be grateful. Think about the last time someone genuinely recognized your hard work and effort or your good qualities and said thank you when they didn’t have to. It probably left you with a glow that lasted all day, maybe all week. When someone shows you gratitude it can change your whole day, and make you feel valued and appreciated.
But practicing gratitude is so much more than just saying thank you.
Look for Reasons to be Grateful
Gratitude, or feeling thankful, is an emotion we experience when we express or feel appreciation for what we have or for those around us.
We’ve all been in positions where the negative is easy to see. That boss who is terrible to work for, the spouse who’s always forgetting to do the dishes, the child who is difficult and headstrong. When we’re in the middle of difficult situations, it’s hard to focus on the positive, much less be thankful.
But when you actively practice gratitude, it sharpens your attention for the good and positive in your life, which helps you be thankful for even small things that might otherwise go unnoticed or taken for granted.
Try looking around you and finding those reasons to be thankful. Maybe your husband forgets to do the dishes, but he always takes the time to make you a cup of coffee in the morning. Maybe your difficult child still asks for kisses every night before bed. Those small moments are worth savoring. And an attitude of being thankful brings these small moments of joy to the forefront of your mind.
Say Thank You Out Loud
Sometimes harder than looking for gratitude, is the act of saying thank you.
Sure, we may notice when your husband does the dishes, or when your co-worker goes out of their way to help you, or when your boss goes to bat for you, but – how often do we actually say thank you?
Gratitude strengthens relationships. Being thankful connects us to other people. It takes work to actively reach out and say thank you, to express gratitude to another person. It makes us vulnerable but also connects us to each other and helps to make everyone around you feel appreciated and valuable.
Keep Gratitude on Your Mind
Here are some ideas for keeping gratitude, and thankfulness, at the front of your mind:
- Keep a journal of the things that bring you joy in daily life.
- Write down at least one good thing a day, and identify why.
- Write thank-you notes, or say thank you to others who you notice doing good for you and others.
- Think about those people who inspire you, and why. Tell them!
A happy life is not one free of negativity and irritation. Instead, a happy life is a life where negativity and irritation are not fed with continued negativity. These minor issues are graciously acknowledged and humbly accepted, making them an opportunity to learn.
Gratitude, or a thankful mindset, lets us notice the blessings of everyday life and distracts us from any negativity. Being mindful and cultivating thankfulness allows us to react to negative events with grace, acceptance, and positivity.