Gratitude Will Change Your Life – If You Let It
We hear a lot of empty words about being thankful – a lot of insistence that we count our blessings. This message that we “should” feel grateful has watered down the concept of gratitude to the point where it can feel a bit clichéd.
But what if we gave gratitude its power back? What if we put gratitude to work, not in our moments of abundance, but in our times of despair or struggle?
This simple practice of being mindful and giving thanks has seen me through some decidedly hard times. Through chronic pain, through the illness or death of loved ones, through my own depression, through the breakups – gratitude has been there for me, like a beacon.
Making a practice out of remaining thankful can also clarify our priorities in an interesting way.
How to Begin a Simple Gratitude Practice
Start by making a list of three things you’re thankful for every day for three weeks. At the end of that time, review your list. Compare that list to your calendar: how do they line up?
If you feel grateful for the time you spent in your garden, or having tea and conversation with friends, notice how big a role those are playing in your life. If you’re thankful for those things, and not, for instance, your time spent on social media, maybe it’s time to shift the ratio of how much you spend doing each.
Gratitude helps you form a positive habit. If you cultivate a mindset of picking apart everything that is wrong, that will, over time, become your default setting. It creates neural pathways in the brain of negativity and criticism – even toward yourself. What if, instead, your default setting was gratitude?
This could mean replacing harsh thoughts about yourself or others by instead finding something positive to focus on. Or instead of falling into the trap of “not enough” and going shopping, you simply take a look around at all that you do have. Deeply appreciating what we already have becomes such a habit that those “not enough” voices will get less and less airtime.
Even if we can’t touch the goodness in the moment – and sometimes that is very difficult – we can cultivate a gratitude practice that keeps the shore within sight, even as we are steering our boats through choppy seas. I believe in gratitude: not as a cliché, but as a means to overthrow any thoughts that what we have and who we are is not enough.
Gratitude is a force to claim our own worthiness and wholeness, even in moments of despair.
Sometimes it can be difficult to remember why we even bother – depression can play tricks on our minds and the world itself can feel overwhelming. Gratitude offers good reminders of why we fight for a more compassionate world – and why we keep going in the face of impossible odds.
Tapping into gratitude nurtures us in the midst of a difficult moment, offering a welcome respite from worry.
It’s a way to tap into what is good, so that we can keep going for the long haul. Gratitude gives us a higher perspective so we don’t get as bogged down in the minutiae of daily life.
Gratitude gives us a bigger picture perspective on our existence. If we’re only looking at the next step, we might otherwise miss the big picture altogether. This heightened view gives us the ability to press on toward something more wonderful even if the path immediately in front of us is precarious.
We do not take the time to celebrate nearly enough. Gratitude is a way of quietly throwing yourself a party. It doesn’t have to be big and showy (a little fist pump of “heck yeah!” will do), but giving thanks for what’s going well can be very powerful. We tend to over think and overanalyze what could be going better. Gratitude gives some of that bandwidth back to celebrating what’s going spectacularly.
This may seem simple. It is and it isn’t. Gratitude takes grit and tenacity. It can be easy to abandon gratitude when the going gets tough and there is seemingly no silver lining.
That being said, if you make gratitude a practice now, it will be that much easier to tap into it when difficult times arise. I know that on a global scale, things can seem rather grim, but gratitude can be our beacon and point us in the direction of hope and compassion, if we let it.