Practicing Gratitude

Written by Angie Coates of thefive15.com

***

Some people wake up in the morning, and their default setting is to be happy and positive people.

I always found that puzzling and even irritating. ‘They must have a perfect life’, I used to think. That was the only possible explanation I could think of. My natural default was certainly not happy and positive. Depending on the day, I would waver from low level grumpy to flat out disillusioned, or even depressed.

Over the years I’ve done a lot of work to correct that, including therapy. My life has changed immensely and I have learned many things.

First, I am not the only one who doesn’t wake up feeling like sunshine and rainbows by default. Second, living a positive and happy life is a trainable skill that has very little do with circumstance and a lot to do with mindset.

One of the most effective tools I’ve learned to fight the blues and fend off the grumpies is to develop a daily habit of gratitude. It also happens to be the easiest. Perhaps that’s why it’s my favourite. Part of its power lies in its simplicity, making it easy to stick with day after day, growing into a habit over the years.

With gratitude, much like training a muscle, practice is everything! Gratitude feels good, the more I do it. But the most profound and impactful changes come after practicing over a consistent period of time. Likewise, the benefits start to diminish when I stop.

But don’t worry. Practicing gratitude doesn’t require us to do it perfectly. It only requires us to do it often.

My short and sweet version of gratitude is to do a list of a few things that are making me happy, or I am thankful for that day. The key for me is to focus on the little things in life, not just the obvious big things. Even on really bad days, if I pay attention, I can always find at least a few things (if not more!) I can give thanks for.

I often like sharing my list of gratitude with friends, and I have friends who share theirs with me. It keeps me accountable and it encourages me to notice things that I may not always pay attention to.

In that spirit, here is a list of a few things I am grateful for today:

  • Morning coffee and blueberry bagels
  • Fall weather and the colour of Fall leaves
  • Waking up to a snoring cuddly pup every single morning
  • Sleeping in!
  • Creative evenings and weekends with my husband and best friend
  • Meaningful time with family
  • A healthy body and mind

There really are no rules to practice, and the list can be as short or as long as you want it to be. That is one of the best things about it. Whatever works for you is the best way to do it.

After many years of practice, I’ve discovered that it is practically impossible to be grateful and unhappy at the same time. But you don’t need to take my word for it; studies show that gratitude not only make us happier, but it also does wonders for our health.

Being grateful may not necessarily turn our lives around. But it will certainly make us happier humans, and when we hit the occasional slump or feel discouraged, it can help us re-focus and carry on.

If you haven’t tried it, I cannot encourage you enough to try! The worst thing that can happen...is that nothing happens. Or even worse, maybe, just maybe, you will end up becoming one of those irritating humans who wakes up feeling like everything is sunshine and rainbows - at least on some days!