What is this gratitude thing and why on earth am I talking about it? Am I trying to be more religious/spiritual? Am I advertising something? The answer to that would be no. Years ago, even weeks ago, I had a pretty standard attitude towards being grateful and gratitude. I’m grateful for all the good things in my life and thankful for a lot of positive things and people. Isn’t that how most of us think? Now I know that this sounds incredibly corny and cliched, but I don’t think I took it seriously enough until something significant happened to me. Everyone says that you don’t truly appreciate the little things until you go through a tough/depressing/incredibly stressful/life-threatening experience. I thought this wasn’t true. I’d never had something too terrible happen to me and felt that I was a very grateful person. Well, I hate to buy into the cliché, but it was right. As grateful and thankful as you can be, I think that it gets taken to a whole new level when something significant happens that opens your eyes.
Last week, I was in a car accident. Thankfully, no one, including myself, was seriously injured and now I am more than fine, but the shock of it all and the memory from the incident has stuck with me. Things happen so quickly, and I thought to myself that there were so many things that I didn’t take two seconds to appreciate when I had the chance.
Now before I get too sober and depress everyone, these significant experiences aren’t the only thing that can make you change gear to the gratitude attitude. This was a big shock to me and has definitely made me more grateful. But, in general, people can be busy, and that can often prevent us from being grateful for the little things in life. Please note though that this is not your fault, or anyone else’s. Life gets hectic, and that’s okay, but it is essential to remember to take a second to stop speeding and see the sights, or you’ll miss them. To quote the oh so wise Ferris Bueller; “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So, in light of my more enlightened and grateful attitude, and with the words of Ferris Bueller for all those who are just busy, today I’m going to be talking about gratitude. Why is it actually a good thing to have a gratitude attitude, and how can we be a little more grateful for one small thing each day?
The Whys – Why should we really have the gratitude attitude?
Actual scientific reasons
WOAH SERIOUSLY? There is scientific proof that being more grateful or having a grateful attitude has benefits. Not just benefits like being happier or more smiley, but benefits that we should all take note about. From the little that I know about psychology and all of the intelligent science that surrounds it … There is evidence that expressing genuine gratitude can improve both physical and mental health. It can improve your sleep quality, the health of your heart and immune system, increase your energy levels and give you a more positive mental crutch. I’m not making it up – I promise! Being grateful, just a tiny bit every day will benefit you both physically and mentally. In the last week, I am already feeling a little bit stronger, positive and more energised (though these kinds of changes do take quite a while to see notable changes) … but that could also just be because I’ve been to the gym, had a great weekend with friends and a proper amount of sleep.
Having a gratitude attitude also promotes optimism and helps us to have a more positive outlook. How surprising right? Okay, jokes aside, gratitude does actually promote optimism and, as I said just above, it gives us that handy positive mental outlook. But why? Well, being grateful means showing appreciation, and to do that, we have to be thinking positive. You can’t really show appreciation for, say the weather, if you are outraged because it ruined your weekend plans. By practising and cultivating a more grateful way of being, we teach ourselves to be more positive but also to be more optimistic. Gratitude goes hand-in-hand with optimism. By being more grateful, you’ll find that you may feel more optimistic about your life. Optimism has its own long lists of significant benefits so, at the end of the day, gratitude just does so many good things for us.
Being grateful, even when things are tough, takes practice, but the art of being grateful actually ends up shifting our focus. By thinking of something to be thankful for instead of drowning ourselves in a list of negatives, our attention automatically shifts to one that is more positive and uplifting. The other way that focuses shifts is we stop focusing on trivial, unnecessary things because we realise that there are ‘better’ things to focus our attention on. Don’t be angry because a post didn’t get as many likes on social media. Instead, think of the memory attached to the photo and why you are thankful to have captured that moment. Your focus will then shift from something trivial and negative to something positive and relevant, all because of gratitude.
Strengthens all sorts
Gratitude can enhance so many things, from your emotions to your career. In terms of emotions, it can reduce negative feelings such as envy or frustration, helps us bounce back and cope with stress better and allows us to experience more good feelings. That part sounds logical right? But some of you might be asking how on earth it can have a positive impact on your career. Well, gratitude can make you a lot more effective and productive in almost any workplace. It can also help you network better, which can only do good things for your career. Gratitude can help you get so much further in achieving your career goals, but it will also make your work environment more friendly. It’s a win-win.
Better’ social life.’
Please note that I have put ‘social life’ in inverted commas. I don’t mean that being more grateful can spike your social media popularity or get you an increase in invitations to all of the cool parties. What I mean is that being grateful tends to make people like you more. How? Well, gratitude, in general, tends to make us nicer, more trusting, more appreciative and a more positive and welcoming person to be around. So, with all of that, it is no wonder that people will like you more. Gratitude helps us strengthen our existing relationships and helps us make strong new ones. That being said, I think I’ve shared enough reasons why the gratitude attitude has enough merits for everyone to adopt it.
The Hows – How can you be a little more grateful each day?
Keeping a gratitude journal is a great way to practice being more grateful. Whether you write for five minutes every day, or for an hour each week, sitting down with your thoughts and saying what you are thankful for is a great way to foster the gratitude attitude. Write down positive thoughts, things that you were grateful for today or the little things that you never realised you loved so much. Keeping this journal can help you refer back to the positives when things are going bad, but they also focus your attention. As you write things down, you re-digest those thoughts and so put yourself in a continual loop of grateful thinking.
Take a 30-day gratitude challenge
There are so many challenges out there for fitness, healthy eating, movies, social media, blogging and even relationships. So, I’m almost 100% sure that there is one for gratitude. In fact, I just checked now, and there are plenty of them just on Pinterest. I like the idea of these challenges because they don’t take up too much of your time, and they help you achieve your goal. Also, it takes just 30 days to create a habit. So, by the time this challenge is done, the practice of being grateful or having a more grateful attitude will probably already be there. How great is that?
Find the positive in the negative
I’m going to go back to the weather example that I used earlier. It is quite hard to be grateful for the weather if it is stormy because it ruined your fun weekend plans. Instead of focusing on your plans being ruined, try to think of something positive that came out of that negative. For example, the stormy weather is good for the plants. Or, a less cheesy example, it gives you (and your friends/partner/family) a reason to do something fun indoors. Another example is if something bad happens at work, instead of thinking about how horrible it is, try to think of something that you learnt from it. Just this small act of finding a positive in the negative will make you more grateful for that little thing (because that seed of positivity can change a day around, trust me).
Sometimes a great way to practice gratitude is to give back to your community. This is because you will appreciate things in your own life (things you may take for granted) more through the giving-back-experience. Volunteering to help others can also increase your own well-being, which will subsequently increase our ability to have more gratitude. All I will say is find the right outlet for you – some people prefer helping at orphanages, working at the SPCA, joining clean-up groups. It all depends on what fits best with you because you want to pick something positive (all are positive, but some have more positive effects on different people).
A daily thought
This could fit under a gratitude journal, but I decided to put it on its own because it can be different. What I mean by this is to find a place (a notebook, little diary on your phone, whatever) where you can write down one thing every day that you are grateful/thankful for. It can be something as small as the delicious cookie you had for dessert or something huge like a friend coming over to comfort you when something terrible has happened. I had one of these when I was travelling, and while some days I had to think really hard for something to put down, I’m glad I did it. I felt more positive looking for something good in my day instead of wallowing in the negatives. Try it out. It may feel weird at first, but like wearing a watch, after a while, it will just feel wrong if you don’t do it.
And so there you have it! I hope that you all enjoyed today’s blog post, and it served as something helpful or useful for you. Whether something significant or life-changing happens, or you are just too busy to breathe let alone think of things to be grateful for, I think it is an excellent idea for us all to practice having more gratitude. There are just so many good things that can come from it and it only takes a small effort on our side to get the ball rolling. I hope that I’ve shown you all why being grateful is a good idea, but also given you some inspiration if you are looking to practice having the gratitude attitude. For my question of the day:
– What are you grateful for?
Me, I’m most grateful to have such loving and supportive parents and the most incredible boyfriend in the world. I’m also thankful for all the good friends in my life, and tea because today it has been my saviour. As always, thank you all so much for reading! Please don’t forget to hit that little like button if you haven’t already, and subscribe so that you don’t miss out on future blog posts (and so we reach the October goal of 200 followers). You guys are all amazing. I am grateful for each and every one of you for taking the time out of your day to read and follow my blog (genuinely grateful)
Lots of Love
Blondey on a Mission xxx