GRATITUDE, WHY IT MATTERS
As we go about our busy days rushing from one task to the next focused on how to get it all done our minds often spend more time fixated on what is coming then what is or has been. Because of this, gratitude sometimes falls by the wayside. We forget to be thankful in the moment for all that we already have because we are so focused on getting somewhere else. We know that we should be grateful and many of us put in effort to show our gratitude to others in our daily interactions. But gratitude is not something we should save to bestow on other people. It is something we should be living and feeling in our everyday lives.
Gratitude may not always be our first response. Especially in times of difficulty or when we are faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Typically, in those scenarios we react from a place of fear not one of love or gratitude. We feel helpless or frustrated, or as if the entire world is against us. It is in those times we need to remember that much is won or lost in the mind.
I have found that coming from a place of gratitude provides a sense of peace. There is a power that comes from recognizing all of the blessings currently around you both big and small. Suddenly as you start to give thanks for all of the things you allowed to go unnoticed your perspective begins to shift. Your ability to take a positive view on even difficult situations becomes easier. While a positive mindset and a focus on gratitude will not remove challenges or difficulty from your life it will allow you to be open to the growth these experiences can bring. You can stop feeling like life is happening to you and question how the challenges you are facing can be for you. How can you use these moments to shape your life and grow into the person you want to be?
When we operate from a place of gratitude it allows us to recognize the abundance already in our lives. It allows us to change our perspective, retake control of our thoughts, and our emotions. Recognizing the abundance already in our lives attracts even more abundance. We begin to see it everywhere and we are open to new opportunities because we are operating from a place of positivity and possibility. With the lens of gratitude, we can more accurately see the opportunities that are available to us and be open to the possibilities they present. When we recalibrate our mindset to recognize the good in our lives every day, we raise the sea level on our happiness. It is naturally easier to feel happier when you are consciously aware of the good then when you focus solely on the hardships or struggles you may be facing.
HOW TO CULTIVATE GRATITUDE
So how do you shift your focus to ensure you are making space for gratitude in your daily life? What things can you do to help keep that gratitude practice top of mind?
A daily gratitude practice can take on many forms. I personally make the effort each day to journal and list out 5 things I am grateful for. Each day as I identify new things, I am reminded of all of the blessings in my life and those that are still to come. I show gratefulness for everything from a sunny day to a great cup of coffee to the health of family and friends. I find it helpful to do this first thing in the morning, as it sets my intention for the day and sets me up to recognize the positivity around me. However, having gratitude does not need to be a formalized process. Making a conscious effort to be more present and to slow down and recognize the good is enough.
I have gotten in the habit of taking out my phone and adding notes to remember moments that I found particularly joyful or things I want to remember. There is no rhyme or reason but when something makes me smile or I have had a particularly good laugh or I want to remember a specific memory with my son, I make sure I capture these moments. While this practice is more hap hazard then my journaling it also gives me access to hundreds of things to be grateful for at my fingertips. The unique ability to look back through some of my favorite moments and memories when I am feeling down, having a hard day or just need a pick me up can be all I need to turn my day around.
I make an effort to cultivate gratitude in my interactions with others. I thank my toddler son for spending the day with me, for having fun with me at the park, for going on a walk – any number of things. It doesn’t matter that he didn’t orchestrate these activities or that many times they were things I was doing for him. What matters to me is that he knows I see him. That I appreciate our moments together and that I am teaching him how to find joy in and be grateful for all of the little things in life.
I tell my friends and my family how much I love and appreciate them often. Expressing gratitude in this way reminds us to be present in the moment. To appreciate the people in our lives for who they are and what they bring.
In our family we pray. Our prayers used to consist of asking for blessings, for health, for things we hoped for. While we still ask for these things our focus has changed. We spend more of our time giving thanks for the day. For the things we enjoyed, for our time together. Changing our perspective from a focus of what we want to thanks for what we already have. No matter your beliefs or daily rituals take notice of the times when your focus is on the future and what will be or what you hope to be. Instead of constantly chasing next take a moment to appreciate the present and all you have that has gotten you here.