Cultivating an attitude of gratitude
It may sound cliche, but there are tremendous benefits to learning to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Studies show that people who regularly express gratitude, either through keeping a gratitude journal, giving thanks in the evening before eating with family, or even just taking a moment to think about all the good things in their lives each day, enjoy better physical and mental health than those who do not.
Why would this be?
Because people who are grateful notice and appreciate the positive things already in their lives.
Doing this makes them feel happier. Happy people tend to reach out more for social interactions. They are less likely to be lonely because they feel good about themselves and about being around other people. They are more likely to exercise regularly, to remember to go to the doctor and dentist for regular check-ups, they have better social skills, coping mechanisms, and better psychological resiliency.
Creating a regular practice of gratitude is easy to do.
There are a number of apps that have been created in recent years to help users track gratitude and happiness. But if it seems strange to use technology for something like this, you can also get out a notebook and put good old fashioned pen to paper. Keeping the notebook at your bedside can help you to remember to record the things you are grateful for each day either upon waking or each night before you go to sleep. It is a good practice to branch out and not just write the same few things every day. If you are grateful for your family, get more specific. What exactly about each family member did you particularly appreciate that day? What about your job was fulfilling and meaningful today? Why did the call from your brother make you feel so good?
Stopping to notice the things that made you grateful one day can inspire you to seek out more of the same in future days, or to pass on the goodwill you received on to others.
Appreciate your brother calling you out of the blue, just to say hi? Your mother would probably love it if you did the same today. Wasn’t it awesome the way your boss praised you in front of the whole department in the meeting? Is there someone in your office that you can do that for today?
Gratitude and happiness are contagious.
They build on each other and quickly spread to others. Peter Drucker once said, “What gets measured gets managed.” This is usually applied to business and analytics, but I want to alter that sentiment slightly so we can apply it to gratitude too:
What gets your attention, grows.
If you put your attention on negative things, you will feel negative. Each small daily stressor that you might easily overcome while in a good mood, suddenly adds to the negativity of the day and makes everything worse. On the flip side, if you put your attention on all of the wonderful things in your life that you are grateful for, you will notice and create more of the things that inspire gratitude. The more grateful you are, the more you have to be grateful for.
Happy gratitude journalling!