Saying “thank you” is something most of us learn at a young age. It’s something we teach to our children too. We all know that gratitude is important, which is why in many parts of the world, we have a day called Thanksgiving to remind us to be thankful.
It is unfortunate in many ways that we have such a day. Yes, it may remind us on that day to be thankful, grateful and appreciative – but the fact is that we will benefit greatly if we do it with much more regularity.
Regularly, like daily or even hourly.
I’ve had lots of times in my life when I was reminded why being grateful is so important. My reasons and situations don’t really matter. They just highlight this fact for me – and that my renewed insight comes at this season, leads me to write and share with you.
The behavior of being grateful goes beyond saying “thank you,” though that is one of the actions that should be included. More specifically what I mean is consciously and regularly looking for and acknowledging the things you are thankful for or appreciate. Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, some make occasional lists and some make a mental note as they think about or become aware of such things.
The purpose of this article is not to suggest or advocate for any particular method, but rather to implore you to be grateful; for when you are, your life will be drastically altered for the better.
Before I share these five ways with you, let me make one thing very clear: the reasons to be grateful are many, but do not include a quid pro quo of “If I’m grateful, I’ll get these benefits.” Rather choose to be grateful, do the things that heighten your appreciation of the world around you and your circumstances, and rest assured these benefits will flow to you.
What we think about expands. This is the foundational principle for the other four ways that follow. Would you like more of the things you are grateful for in your life? When you think on those things and are grateful for their presence, you are already taking the first step towards expanding them in your life!
Reduce your stress. We add much stress to our lives by the things we think about, wonder about and worry about. If you are thinking appreciative, grateful thoughts, there is less room for the rest. When you are grateful for what you have, you will reduce your stress.
Change your focus. Being grateful in these ways changes your focus by definition. Our minds are built to literally allow us to see the things we are looking for. When you approach life from the perspective of thankfulness, your mind will literally notice more examples of things to be thankful for, and even help you do a better job of seeing the positive in any situation.
Improve your relationships. Do this exercise with me. Think of a person that is a challenge in your life – a person that makes something difficult for you; someone that frustrates you or with whom you argue with frequently. Write that person’s name at the top of a piece of paper and write down five admirable things about that person – five skills, abilities or characteristics about that person that you can appreciate. Once you have done that, commit to thinking about those attributes or characteristics the next time you are around or working with that person. As you think of those things you appreciate (even when you are frustrated or in disagreement), your thinking about the person and your attitude will change. By taking this step of gratitude and appreciation you are taking a huge step towards improving your relationship.
Improve your self-image. The more you think about the good things in your life, and the more you notice and observe what is working well in your life, and the better you will feel about yourself! And the even better news is that as your self-image improves, your focus and your relationships will continue to improve and your stress will (everything else being equal) continue to drop.
The benefits of gratitude go far beyond doing something because it’s the “right thing” to do. When you begin to notice and take inventory of all of the things you are thankful for, you recognize that even though your life may have challenges and you might be facing obstacles, you can build your future success on the blessings around you right now.
Everyone has a huge number of things, people and circumstances for which to be thankful. When you invest the time and focus to notice and acknowledge these things, you create space and energy to draw even more positive experiences and circumstances into your life.