Without a doubt, the number one way to live a happier life is to practice gratitude. But why is it so important, and if it’s simply ‘appreciating what we have’, then why do so few people do it?
We become so focused on what we want, what we don’t want, and what we haven’t got, that we miss out on everything we do have. For weeks we desire a new item we’ve seen in a shop or online, we save our money or find a way to get it. When we finally get it we feel great, opening the item and enjoying this nice new experience we’ve looked forward to.
Three weeks later, everything is back to normal and we no longer spare a thought for this inanimate object that gave us such delight and pleasure just a few weeks ago.
Over-dramatic? Maybe a little? No, I don’t think so.
What is an easy way to practice gratitude?
The easiest way to start practicing gratitude and genuinely appreciating what we already have is to form a habit of keeping a small gratitude list. The simple act of writing five things down at some point during the day reprograms our brain to recognise what we do have in life. In a very short time it will become a natural habit to notice things and start appreciating them.
Why should I keep a gratitude list?
Simple: because it works! Do I write a list out every morning? No, of course not. But I do in my head. I wake up every morning with the intention of thinking through five different things that I have appreciation for in that moment. Five things that my life would be worse without if I woke up tomorrow and they weren’t there.
This morning if I remember correctly:
- The rain. We’ve had a lot of sun, and it’s easy to grumble about the rain – but imagine if we had no rain ever!
- My fan. I have a large fan in my room which helps me sleep at night.
- My iPad. It enables me to do so much more, even before my carers get me up in the morning.
- My eyesight. This one is self-explanatory.
- My mobile. I love being in communication with people.
You’ll notice they aren’t my top five prized possessions. They aren’t all even things I own; practicing gratitude in this way is about appreciating everything, right down to the little things we normally take for granted.
How do I go through my gratitude list?
I look around or feel inside and bring something to mind, then imagine life without it and sit with that feeling for a few seconds. I then flip it the other way and focus on how it makes my life better. It’s important not to focus too much on the negative of life without these things, but taking a moment to imagine not having them really helps to form a deeper appreciation and develop the feeling of gratitude we’re looking for.
The benefits of keeping a gratitude list
When we train ourselves to appreciate and have genuine gratitude for what we have, our subconscious minds change how we see things. We begin to enjoy the small things; the things that to us were once everyday and taken for granted become things that we are thankful for.
Imagine if I’d spent a few moments each day appreciating the fact that I could walk, dress myself, take a shower in private, or even be able to make my own toast the way I like it, prior to my accident? The reality is, I never did. I took for granted that I would have these privileges the rest of my life.
The most popular question I get asked is ‘Why am I so positive?’
Although there is not a simple answer, being grateful for the things I do have is certainly a huge part of it. It’s because I make a conscious effort to find the gift in things; even on the worst days there is always a gift to be found. Yes, it might take a while to see it but when emotions have cooled, time has passed, and you can see the whole picture and become aware of the lessons you can learn from the hard times, you can find that gift.
So, is gratitude the secret to happiness? In this short article we will explore how important gratitude is towards our happiness.
Don’t forget – the gratitude list is not just about appreciating the big things! We don’t need a list to remind us to appreciate the summer, the roof over our head, our partner or our payday. Or perhaps some people do… But this list is about being thankful for anything and everything in your life.
Please comment below on how you practice gratitude and a few things you’re grateful for today.