When did you last pause to contemplate all that’s truly wonderful about your life? Are you a glass-half-full kind of person, or do you tend to see the grim before the great? Let’s be honest, it’s pretty easy to take our everyday lives (and the people in our everyday lives) for granted. Busy schedules don’t leave a lot of time for reflection and we’re often much better at focusing on what we lack, rather than being appreciative of everything we have, and all that’s good and right. However, with a little tweaking, you can change your outlook and reap the benefits.
Count your blessings
Psychologists who study the science of gratitude (yep, there are people who get paid to do this) believe that honing our appreciation skills could have major health and emotional benefits. Even when times are tough (perhaps especially when times are tough) looking for a silver lining, no matter how elusive it may seem at the time, will help you become a stronger person in mind and body.
Power of positive thinking
Adopting the habit of practising gratitude every day can make you feel content and boost your emotional wellbeing. Plus, this optimistic and enthusiastic approach to life will strengthen your personal relationships.
Studies show having a grateful outlook also decreases feelings of stress, depression, anxiety, anger and isolation. When we are truly thankful for what we have, and share that feel-good vibe with others, the resulting emotional warmth releases a surge of the hormone oxytocin from our brains into our bodies.
Often called the ‘love’ or ‘trust’ hormone, oxytocin helps fight free radical damage and inflammation. It also reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which in turn lowers blood pressure, protects the heart and boosts immunity.
Lemons or lemonade?
Having an attitude of gratitude is more than just saying ‘thank you’ for what you receive, or acknowledging people who do things for you – although that’s incredibly important. It’s about shifting focus away from the negative and onto the positive in any given situation, noticing everyday miracles and simple beauty all around you. And just maybe it’s also realising that life could be a heck of a lot worse!
It doesn’t necessarily mean that everything in your life is hunky-dory, or you should settle for any less than what you dream. It just means you have a deeper appreciation for everything you already have, rather than taking it for granted. Anyone can learn to live life in a more optimistic, gracious state of mind. You don’t need to be religious, or even particularly spiritual – all you need is an open heart and a willingness to see the world around you with fresh eyes. Plus, the more you practise being thankful, the better you’ll become at it and, soon, it will be second nature.
5 ways to be truly grateful
1. Start a journal and make a point of writing down four or five things each day that made you feel thankful. It could be anything, large or small – a sunny day, great cup of coffee, no traffic on your commute, an unexpected phone call from a friend. Remember to find joy in small pleasures as well as life’s bigger wins.
2. Take a moment and imagine losing what's most precious to you – this will help you realise what you should be thankful for. Whoever first uttered the expression, ‘You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone’ was on the money.
3. Say thanks and express warm gratitude for even the smallest of gestures and kindness shown to you. Don't forget to include your nearest and dearest - often the people we are closest to are the same people we take for granted the most. Being told 'thank you' also makes those who hear it feel good, too.
4. Spread the world by teaching your kids how to adopt this feel-good frame of mind. It will set them on a track for a lifetime of happiness - no matter how many curve balls are thrown at them!
5. Make the best of bad situations and know that, although you can’t always see it at the time, positives can be found in times of sadness and trouble, too. From adversity springs insight, strength, wisdom and courage – shaping you into a stronger person.