I saw a friend the other day and she asked me if I really have to put so much effort into making myself grateful and appreciating the small things in life, and yes, my answer was yes. Unfortunately happiness isn’t something that comes naturally to me and not many people understand that. They say I complain too much, that I am never happy. It’s probably true but I didn’t choose to be this way. So now, knowing that it bothers people and also bothers me I am trying to be more mindful of what I say and do, more conscious of my thoughts and feelings. I am trying to understand that emotions are not facts, they are only our reaction to external circumstances and that we can control them, we can take away their power over us. Last time when I mentioned the gratitude journal I felt a little funny. Not many people actually know how much I have to remind myself every day about the good things that happen to me, the little things, the things that quite often go unnoticed. And that is why I decided to give a gratitude journal a go.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~ Melody Beattie
Right now, think of someone or something you feel really grateful for. It could be your friends, your partner, the house you live in, the meal you had, the work you do. It could be your devoted animal companions or loving human companions. It could be an opportunity you’ve been given, the recovery from an illness or someone who’s made an enormous difference in your life. How do you feel?
We get so busy with chasing after the things we want, after the things that are somewhere out there, that we forget to enjoy the present moment and consequently we forget to be happy. Or we focus so much on what went wrong that we completely ignore the things that went well. You hear people all the time saying they will be happy when they will get this and that, when they will do this and that – I know I am guilty of it. But then when those things do happen we go on planning the next thing. We forget and fail to enjoy the things we achieved so far, even just now, the things we worked for for so long. By doing this we don’t notice what we already have, what we’ve accomplished and we forget to be happy. This has always been the case for me and I struggle with it every day. When things are good that’s fine, when something goes wrong is when I start panicking. Admitted to one of the top universities? Yea, sure, no biggie. Landed a good job? Sure, obviously. Dieting for 3 days but still haven’t lost 5 kg? MY BODY HATES ME! Yes, I do this. A lot.
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
Realize that now, in this moment you have more than enough. It’s okay to have dreams, it’s okay to aspire to grow, to learn, to evolve and to achieve big things but it’s also important to celebrate yourself, to celebrate your accomplishments, to celebrate the present moment and to celebrate your life. With gratitude comes happiness and with happiness comes more gratitude.
“The best things in life are not only free, they are mostly invisible.”
Change of perspective
When we practice noticing the big things we’re grateful for, the small things, annoyances, and disappointments won’t overwhelm us so easily. We remember how we are blessed in every moment and won’t get caught in the small pettiness of life that can suck the joy right out of us, not to mention make everyone who has to be around us miserable, too.
Benefits of Gratitude
- Improved physical, emotional, and social well-being
- Decreased stress, anxiety, depression, and headaches
- Greater optimism and happiness
- Improved feelings of connection in times of loss or crises
- Increased self-esteem
- Strengthened heart, immune system, and decreased blood pressure
- Improved emotional and academic intelligence
- Expanded capacity for forgiveness
The most common method for cultivating gratitude is by keeping a “gratitude journal“ and recording experiences you are grateful for. The idea is to write down at least three positive experiencesevery day. Recording these positive experiences boosts levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy, especially when compared to those who recorded or focused on negative events. Our days rarely go according to plan or without unexpected challenges. Some of us can naturally appreciate the sweet moments as they happen throughout the day, while many of us need to cultivate this sense of appreciation.
Research shows that our thoughts have the power to shape our brains. The more conscious we are about perceiving an experience as being positive the more this perception will generalise to other parts of the brain. Apparently negative experiences are like Velcro and tend to stick in our minds, whereas positive experiences are like Teflon and more readily slip away. We must actively work to integrate positive experiences into the brain in order for the positive to “stick” and the beneficial effects to endure. So grab your cutest notebook and your fancy pen and write down all you are grateful for. You’ll feel better in an instant. Guaranteed!