Gratitude Is an Antidote to Bitterness
Gratitude and thankfulness have the power to transform us. When we can see all that we have, all that is being done for us through the help of others and readily say thank you for it, we are happier and set free to be our best. Gratitude and thankfulness also have a number of practical benefits.
Gratitude has significant emotional benefits. First of all, gratitude leads to more positive feelings. It makes it easier to be more relaxed and less stressed. It helps you be more resilient when things go wrong. You bounce back faster. When you are grateful you see the past in a more positive light and find it easier to be more optimistic about the future.
Practicing gratitude will make you feel less lonely and isolated. You'll express more compassion and kindness. More people will want to spend time with you. We tend to attract more of what we make a habit.
A 2014 study published in Emotion found that thanking new acquaintances makes them more likely to want to develop a friendship. Dr. Robert A. Emmons found gratitude reduces many toxic emotions, ranging from envy and resentment to frustration and regret.
Did you know that gratitude has been scientifically proven to strengthen your immune system and make you happier and more optimistic? Gratitude reduces stress.
When you are regularly thankful, you'll feel more positive emotions and feel more alive, too. You'll sleep better. Grateful people experience fewer aches and pains according to a 2012 study published in Personality and Individual Differences.
Ways to Develop the Gratitude Habit
1. Stop Comparing Yourself to Others
Though stacking yourself up against other people can be seriously tempting for many of us (especially when it comes to what you see on social media), making comparisons will always leave you feeling like you're inferior and have less than you need. Envy and jealousy are enemies of gratitude.
Shannon Kaiser says, "Being grateful turns what we have in life into enough. It can take the pressure off of our souls to work harder, be more, prove our worth or overextend ourselves in search of an outward quest for approval."
2. Write Your Gratitude Down
Keep a journal because writing down what you're thankful for is an awesome way to remember all of the good stuff in your life, whether it's big or small. In fact, writing something down is the best way remember it, which means you'll find it easier to appreciate it all again when life is difficult. Flipping through your journal in the bad times can be an instant mood booster.
To make the most of journaling, do it for at least 5 to 10 minutes a day. Whether in the morning or before bed, think clearly and jot down all that you are grateful for that particular day. Counting your blessings will surprise you with just how much you have to be thankful for.
You can also have a Gratitude Bank by filling a jar with slips of paper on which you've written the things you're thankful for. (A quart mason jar with a big slot is perfect.)
You can put up a Gratitude Board by taking a bulletin board and pinning your thankfulnesses on it, or you can write them on a dry erase board. Keep your board somewhere you can see it regularly.
3. Give More and Do More for Others
Feeling bummed out? Try doing something nice for someone else. It will not only brighten your mood, but you'll probably feel really good about how you've used your time, talents, abilities or whatever else you have to offer. Sometimes, all it takes is listening ear for a few minutes or smiling to a stranger on the street. Try giving at least one person a compliment every day.
When you do something for others without expecting anything in return, you will experience the joy of giving. Helping others will make you realize how many things you have to be grateful for – health, abilities, resources, talents and so much more.
Don't ever underestimate how much simple kindness can do; both for someone else and for your own gratitude practice. According to TIME, "experiments show evidence that altruism is hardwired in the brain – and it's pleasurable."
4. Be Grateful for the Everyday Things
Making gratitude a habit is like learning anything else. You have to start small, and practice regularly. Realize that you have lots of small things you can appreciate throughout the day.
For example, if there is a quality you admire in a friend, let them know. The weather may be just how you like it today. Take the time to appreciate it. Your barista may be really nice and always serve you coffee with a smile. Smile back and thank them for it. You'll be surprised how focusing on the small things can make the big things even better in the long run.
5. When You Complain…
When you find yourself complaining about something, stop and replace your complaint with something specific you are grateful for and share it with someone else whenever you can.
The November Gratitude Challenge
Develop your gratitude this month by taking this challenge.
1. When You Get Up…
Reflect on you past. Find something that you are particularly thankful for. Be specific. Don't quickly say something like, "I'm thankful for my second grade teacher." Instead say, "I'm thankful for my second grade teacher. She believed in me when nobody else did."
2. During the Day…
Make it a point to remember to say thank you to the people who help you or serve you. Again, be specific when you can. Say "Thanks for folding my laundry." rather than just saying "Thanks." as you go through the room.
3. When You Go to Bed…
Reflect on your day. Find something that you are particularly thankful for. Be specific. If you have a note pad or journal take a moment to write it down.
Questions to Journal
- What 3 things in the last week or two are you the most grateful for?
- What 3 things from the past are you the most grateful for? How grateful for them were you at the time?
- Which 3 people are you the most grateful for? What makes them stand out to you today?
- On a scale of 1 to 10 how blessed would you say your life is or is becoming?
BrainCraft, The Amazing Effects of Gratitude
John Templeton Foundation, Gratitude Is Good for You
Alison Ledgerwood, Getting Stuck in the Negatives (and How to Get Unstuck) (TEDxUCDavis)
UMNCSH, Brené Brown on joy and gratitude
Quotes for the Week
Be thankful for what you have; you'll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you will never, ever have enough.
Gratitude is riches. Complaint is poverty.
Reflect upon your present blessings – of which every man has many – not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
The secret of happiness is to count your blessings while others are adding up their troubles.
John F. Kennedy
As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
William Arthur Ward
Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it.
Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.
Rather than focusing on what I don't have, I focus on what I do – I am lucky to have a fire, I am lucky to have this job, I am lucky to have a tent, and I am lucky to have your company.
Irving Berlin (White Christmas)
When I'm worried and I can't sleep
I count my blessings instead of sheep
And I fall asleep counting my blessings
Verses for the Week
1 Thessalonians 5:18
Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(Note: this says in all circumstances not for all circumstances.)
Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever!
This is the day that the Lord has made;
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever.
I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
A Prayer for the Week
Father, thank you for all the things you have made available to me. I live in a country and time where I have what people in the past could only wish for. Thank you for the people who help me every day. Help me notice the things they do and say thank you to them. Help me build a habit of thankfulness this month. Amen.