Practicing the art of gratitude
What if I told you there is one foolproof way to instantly boost your mood and energy and has the potential to change your life?
This thing is a real thing and it's called "gratitude" and this has been a practice pretty much every self-help guru, entrepreneur and successful people have bee practicing and advocating for quite some time.
In fact, gratitude is at the core of the "Law of attraction" (LoA for short) practice.
You may or may not believe in the LoA, but psychologists agree that simply being grateful for what you have has a big impact on your overall happiness and mental health, and yes some researches have been conducted on the topic, it's even published by the Harvard medical school.
I myself have been a big fan of practicing gratitude for a number of years. I've always been a believer in the power of positive thinking, and I do believe in the law of attraction as well, but I didn't connect the dots with gratitude until I think about 10 years ago when I picked up the book "The magic" by Rhonda Byrne in a bookstore. The link I just shared, is an Amazon affliate link by the way, more on that at the bottom of this post.
That book was my first real exposure to the art of gratitude, which I was kind of already practicing unconsciously already.
The general idea is that by being grateful for what you have, you can bring more into your life. You may or may not believe that part, but you can probably agree that when you are being grateful or say thank you for something you are not focused on what you DON'T have and that alone is a big win.
There is a right and not so right way to practice gratitude
This might come as a shock to you, but often, people practice gratitude out of a place of condescension or lakh, and we've all been there at least once. Raise your hand or nod if you have heard or even uttered some of the following sentences :
I'm grateful for the food on my plate, because there are people less fortunate than me who go hungry
I'm grateful for my half broken down car because at least I have a car
Or you have had people make you feel guilty of feeling a certain way because some people obviously have it "worse" than you and that means your feelings whatever they are invalid. I'm sure you have been in a similar situation at least once :
You : "I'm so exhausted, being a mom whipped my butt today" Well meaning person : "At least you have kids, you should be grateful, there are people who are desperate to be a parent and can't"
Sounds familiar? I bet! If it's not about parenting it's about other things, I remember more than one instance of me expressing my frustration about my maid breaking my dishes or constantly slacking only to have "well meaning" friends point out "At least you have a maid, show a bit of gratitude" The fact I was paying for a certain level of professionalism I was clearly not getting was apparently to be equated with a lack of gratitude. Let's be clear about one thing here, having something that someone doesn't is NOT a reason to be grateful, and it certainly not a reason to invalidate certain feelings you may have. You can be grateful about being a toddler mom AND be dead beat exhausted and on the verge of loosing your sanity. Feeling worn out, tired, and frustrated are VALID feelings you are ENTITLED to have.
If gratitude has to be tied to someone not having something you have, it is not REAL gratitude. It comes from a place of lack and in the LoA lack is a negative energy, let it creep into your life and it'll bring more of it to you.
but, wait! Didn't you say gratitude is the key to happiness?
Yes it is! But not at the expand of other feelings. Nobody can feel super happy all the time and it's actually healthy to have moments when you don't feel your best. We are all humans. Plus, just like you can be grateful to be a parent, but super exhausted and frustrated at the same time. You can lead a happy fulfilling life and still have moments of frustration and anger.
The difference is in how you let certain feelings get at you. You must acknowledge them, but the key is to not wallow in them and let them rain on your parade longer than they should.
this is were real gratitude comes in
The practice of gratitude is a daily practice, but if I feel low, I take a pen out and write a list of all the things I am grateful for right this second. It doesn't matter of small they are, if thewy make me feel warm inside, I'm grateful for them. I have written things like "I'm grateful for tea" in my gratitude diary. Just tea, and NOT because there is someone who potentially doesn't have it.
I am grateful for tea...just because.
The very act of listing all those small things that make you happy and say thank you for them is actually distracting you from feeling like your anger/fear or anxiety is going to eat you whole and if you go at it long enough, you'll suddenly find that you suddenly feel at peace. If that is hard to picture, imagine a bottle that has some mud stuck at the bottom. Now imagine trying to fill that bottle with clear water and seeing all the water turn muddy. If you keep on filling the bottle and make it overflow, it pushes the muddy water out. Do that long enough, and eventually, the water inside the bottle will become clear again. This is what the power of gratitude does. Imagine your anger, fear of any negative feeling that is taking a too strong hold on you as the mud at the bottom of the bottle. The water you pour in and let overflow is all the things you are grateful for.
The practice of gratitude is not about negating the negative, it's about making sure that the positive outweighs the negative at the end of the day. If you have more things to be grateful about than you have to be frustrated with, your general state will be a state of happiness. Ultimately is all about tipping the scale in the favour of what you want.
a gratitude journal is a good way to start
If you are just getting started on practicing the art of gratitude in a conscious way, keeping a journal and setting 15 minutes a day to fill it is a great way to start. Consistency. like for everything else, is the key. It takes about a month to form a habit, any habit, so make those 15 minutes a day absolutely NON NEGOTIABLE.
I personally do it at the end of my day, but seriously any time that works for YOU is a good time. During those 15 minutes, start listing all the things you are grateful for, one by one :
I am grateful for tea
I am grateful for a quiet, peaceful morning
I am grateful for breakfast on the balcony
I am grateful for a good night sleep
No matter how big or small these things are, list them in, and notice how with each one you write down, you feel lighter, more at peace, take time to be grateful for that feeling as well.
After a few months of keeping a journal, you might not have to do it as often because you will probably notice that saying thank you for things all through the day is becoming a second nature to you. I know some people make fun of people who say tank you to taxi drivers or doormen for holding doors, or cashier who give back the change at the supermarket. But guess what? If saying thank you is the key to happiness, then there is no reason not to, as long as you are doing it genuinely. I myself am a serial "thank you" sayer, nobody is too insignificant to not deserve a thank you from me. I am truly grateful for baristas making my coffee, the doormen holding doors for me, and taxi drivers taking me places. I don't write as much in my gratitude journal anymore, but I end my day silently giving thanks for everything at bedtime. I'm not religious at all, but this act of giving grace is one that is present in every religions, the concept of gratitude is in the prayers of every faith.
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