With Thanksgiving approaching, we thought gratitude would be a good topic for the week. There is a reason why gratitude is such a hot topic, why Oprah keeps a journal all about it, and why guided meditations use gratitude as a topic on the regular. Gratitude is one of the keys to happiness. If you aren’t grateful for what you have, what you have can’t make you happy. I’ve often reflected on the interesting paradox about how ambition and dissatisfaction drives one to achieve more, do more, gain wealth, and how the most wealthy are often never satisfied. That feeling of never feeling satisfied is what drives one to continue accumulating wealth, and at the same time, what prevents one from feeling grateful, and subsequently happy from the wealth they already have. This is also true in relationships and life. If you don’t feel grateful for what you have, it can’t make you happy. If you don’t feel grateful to be with your partner, for your job, or to live where you live, chances are you aren’t deriving happiness from it. Gratitude really is one of the keys to happiness, and with practice, you can train your brain to notice things to be grateful for more often. You can train your brain to incorporate gratitude into your thinking habits and increase your overall happiness.
Below are 4 simple ways to practice gratitude in your everyday life:
- keep a gratitude journal: Write regularly in a journal about what you are thankful for. This could be as simple as the cup of coffee you are drinking, or when you are really having a hard day, simply that a new day begins tomorrow. Make this a regular habit. It could be everyday, or twice per week, but simply carving out a time every week to journal will help you create a habit out of it. Then, when something terrible happens, and you don’t know how you could ever feel grateful for anything, you can read through your old journal entries to be reminded of all the things you have in your life that are good, all the things that you are thankful for. This can be a powerful practice and a powerful resource when you are having a really hard time.
- practice gratitude meditations: I like to do this with my clients all the time. Simply close your eyes, take some full deep breaths in through your nose and out through your mouth. Then think of something that you are grateful for (it could be a relationship, job, pet, etc.). Feel that feeling of gratitude in your heart or your body and imagine it washing through your entire body until you are completely engulfed in the feeling gratitude. Picture that feeling of gratitude radiating out of you because it is so big. You can sit with this feeling for as long as you’d like. Take a few deep breaths to end the meditation and then bring your awareness back to the room, open your eyes, and notice if this practice changes your mood or changes the course of the rest of your day
- enjoy simple pleasures: We are beginning a simple pleasures category on our blog because there truly are so many! There are so many simple pleasures we can take advantage of throughout our day to increase our gratitude. Some examples are: enjoying a nice hot cup of coffee or tea, going for a walk, getting out in nature, taking a bath, burning a scented candle, cleaning up your house and then luxuriating in how good it feels to be in a clean space, checking out an inspiring blog ; ), and watching a sunrise or sunset. The point is that there are so many little things we can feel thankful for that don’t cost any money, and setting intention to incorporate more of these simple pleasures into our life can increase our amount of gratitude and ultimately happiness.
- create a gratitude ritual: If you aren’t into writing in a journal, you can turn gratitude into a daily ritual. Think of something you do everyday (e.g. brushing your teeth, sitting down for dinner, drinking morning coffee or tea) and take time to think of at least one thing you are grateful for when you do that activity. If, for example, I decided to make a gratitude ritual out of brushing my teeth, I would take the 2 minutes I brushed my teeth to think about all the things I’m grateful for in my life. You could even make this part of your family routine, like sharing one thing you are grateful for at dinnertime with everyone.
Try any or all of these and see if you don’t feel happier. Remember, if you don’t feel grateful for what you have, what you have can’t make you happy!!