Gratitude is acknowledging and appreciating your blessings – from the people in your life who elevate, inspire, and believe in you, to the experiences that help you learn, grow, and evolve. Spiritual leaders and philosophers across the world credit a happier life to gratitude. Deepak Chopra describes gratitude as an “immensely powerful force that we can use to expand our happiness, create loving relationships, and even improve our health.” Jack Canfield famously said, “Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.” And Tony Robbins teaches that, “When you are grateful, fear disappears and abundance appears.”
Medical science also supports the notion that all roads to happiness touch the gratitude milestone. Recent research from Harvard, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley shows that individuals who maintain a regular gratitude practice experience, among other benefits:
- Stronger immune systems
- Lower blood pressure
- Longer and more restorative sleep
- Increased optimism and joy
- A more forgiving outlook
- A more outgoing disposition
Pretty cool, right? And that’s not all, folks. Here are some of the awesome things that I’ve discovered thanks to my gratitude practice:
- No matter how good – or bad – your life looks at any given moment, there really is so much (and so many people) you can be thankful for.
- Gratitude begets gratitude. The more good things you see, the more good things you see.
- When you practice gratitude, it’s really hard to feel sorry for yourself and/or to be an a-hole to people.
Because gratitude is such a powerful (and addictive!) tool, I want to help you make gratitude a daily practice. Here are some suggestions to get you started:
- Write it down. Set aside 15-20 minutes of quiet time (I love first thing in the morning, but do whatever works and feels best to you), find a cozy spot and your favorite journal, and make your gratitude inventory. Maybe you’ll find yourself expressing gratitude to the people who support and inspire you. If you’re a parent, maybe you’ll honor your kids for all the gifts they’ve brought to your life. Or maybe there are musicians or artists who fill you with joy each time you experience their craft. You might also express gratitude for other gifts in your life such as your health, your home, food, your fellow Cross Fit/spinning/boot camp warriors, or your church and congregation. Even if you feel like everything in your life is going wrong, journaling will help you realize that we all have a lot more blessings in our lives than we know.
- Express it to others. Say it in person, call, text, email, or send Morse code to the people you are grateful for. Expressing gratitude out loud to another human being can have immense energy and power behind it. Try it and see for yourself.
- Journal about your future and the feelings you’re going to be grateful for. Journal about what you want to be grateful for one year from now. Maybe you’ve got your eyes on a big promotion at work, you’ve decided to run your first marathon, or you’ve committed to start volunteering at a local animal shelter once a week. Write in the present tense as if you are living those goals right now. How does it feel?
- When you find yourself worrying about the future (aka “future tripping”), think about what you are grateful for right now in this moment. Because that’s really all we’ve got. Worry is fear, not love. Your time is too precious to waste on fear-based thoughts. Gratitude is like praying for what you want more of. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Choose wisely.
- When you find yourself comparing your life to someone else’s, get your gratitude on. Maybe you’re spending (too much) time on Facebook or Instagram and thinking, “So-and-so has no problems, and has the best life ever. Poor little me. My life sucks.” Ok, here’s the fix: Stop the insanity and tell yourself (out loud) what’s going awesome for you and what’s working in YOUR life.
- When you find yourself wanting to be in a different phase of your life, practice gratitude. Maybe you just got dumped. Or fired. Or you had an epic, defcon-5 level fight with your best friend. It’s so easy to focus and stay stuck on the bad stuff, especially when it’s fresh and right in front of your nose. But the more you practice gratitude, the easier and more habitual it becomes. That’s why it’s called a gratitude PRACTICE, my friends. Gratitude is about routinely practicing a new way of thinking that gains momentum over time and sticks because of how good it makes you feel.