Gratitude is a word that seems to be thrown around a lot these days.
From Instagram influencers, to spiritual coaches, and that one Facebook friend whose constant cheerfulness is almost too much, everyone seems to be touting the benefits of practicing gratitude.
But what does it mean to have gratitude?
Simply put, gratitude means being genuinely thankful and appreciative for what you have.
Why is this important? Being thankful for your situation in life makes you a happier and healthier person. According to Psychology Today, practicing gratitude increases your self-esteem, and improves both your physical and psychological health.
It also increases a person’s ability to be empathetic, which is incredibly important when beginning a spiritual journey of any kind.
Let’s be honest though– practicing gratitude can be hard, even when you know all of the benefits.
It’s almost instinctive to complain or find the problems in your situation. As a natural-born pessimist, I get it. Forcing myself to be thankful for the positives rather than dwelling on the negatives didn’t come easily for me. If I’m being honest, I still sometimes struggle with it.
However, I’ve found that I’m a genuinely happier person since making the conscious decision to practice gratitude in my day-to-day life.
You don’t need to drastically overhaul your life and become over-the-top optimistic overnight. That would feel artificial and you likely wouldn’t stick to it very long. Instead, making small changes in your mindset and habits can help take gratitude from something you have to consciously practice to something that comes to you naturally.
Below I’ve highlighted four simple ways to incorporate gratitude into your life. All of these things are easy, but powerful, ways to shift your outlook on life and become a happier (and more thankful) individual.
Live in the moment
In today’s society we are constantly connected to a never-ending stream of information. We can look up any information we want on a whim and have the ability to check in on thousands of people at our leisure.
As a result, it is easy to lose ourselves in technology. We are able to constantly compare ourselves to others and looks for ways to improve or change our lives in some way.
While the internet is a great thing as a whole, these behaviors can be detrimental to our overall well being.
Instead of getting caught up in social media, take a moment to step back and be aware of what is happening right now. It’s very easy to forget to notice what’s happening in the real world when you have an even bigger “world” right at your fingertips.
By living in the moment, you are forced to consider what you have available to you. It’s easier to feel content and happy with your life when you stop comparing yourself to others!
Appreciate the little things
Today, work was rough. My mental health wasn’t great, the clock was dragging by, and there was some ridiculous coworker drama that I just didn’t want to deal with. By the time I clocked out, I was crabby and ready to be out of there.
I was not feeling any amount of gratitude whatsoever.
But then I noticed how beautiful the sunset was. The sky was a blend of vibrant pastels: oranges, purples, pinks, and blues.
Honestly, it kind of took my breath away.
In that moment, I went from being in a foul mood to being thankful that I got to see something so beautiful. If I’m being honest with you, it was this moment that inspired me to write this post!
When life’s stresses seem to be piling up on you, take a step back and find something small to be thankful for. Whether it’s the piece of chocolate you have in your lunch box, the super-cozy fuzzy socks you wore today, or a beautiful sunset, being thankful for the little things can completely change your outlook on life. Which takes me to my next point…
Start a gratitude journal
Just like the name implies, a gratitude journal is a journal where you record things you are thankful for.
It doesn’t have to be anything fancy (unless you want it to be). You could buy a fancy composition book or use a simple spiral bound notebook. Heck, you could even keep the journal in a word doc on your computer!
The important thing is that you use it.
Everyday write 5-10 things that you are thankful for. They don’t have to be profound.
Sometimes all you can think of is that you’re thankful for your cat.
Or your houseplants.
Or the phone call you just had with your best friend.
The point is to find things in your life that you are thankful for and acknowledge them. In doing so, you’re drawing awareness to the positive things in your life and focusing on the good instead of the bad.
Put a spin on things
Like I said before, I’m naturally a pessimist. I instinctively jump to the glass half full perspective in situations.
However, when I notice myself thinking in this way I make a conscious effort to change my attitude.
When I feel miserable about my job, I remind myself how good it feels to have financial stability.
When I don’t like what my family is having for supper, I remind myself that my parents’ put effort into the meal so that I wouldn’t have to cook something else for myself instead.
When I miss my long-distance boyfriend, I remind myself how lucky I am to have a love strong enough to overcome the distance.
You get the idea.
Changing your outlook and finding the silver lining in negative situations helps to make you a more positive person. And honestly, feeling good about a situation is so much better than dwelling on everything that sucks in your life.