The Art of Gratitude

Gratitude is by definition, the quality of being thankful. It gives way to simplicity- the desire to clear out, pare down, and realize the essentials of what we need to live truly well. Simplicity brings with it order, both internally and externally and a sense of order in our life brings us harmony. Harmony provides us with the inner peace we need to appreciate the beauty that surrounds us each day, and beauty opens us to joy.

Listen to the whispers of your heart. Look within. Have a grateful heart. Take time to be in the moment. Savor the moment. What is missing from many of our days is a true sense that we are enjoying the lives we are living. It is difficult to experience moments of happiness if we are not aware of what it is we genuinely love. We must learn to savor small, authentic moments that bring us contentment. Take the time to slowly arrange a bouquet of flowers in order to appreciate their colors, fragrance, and beauty. Sip a cup of tea on the front porch in the sunshine. Pause for five minutes to pet a purring cat. Simple pleasures are waiting to be enjoyed. Simple pleasures often overlooked.

Perhaps you think you will be happy when you get a bigger kitchen, or a new job, or the perfect someone with whom to share your life. But don’t you want to start making happiness a habit right now? Every morning when we wake up we’ve been given a wonderful gift- another day of life- so let’s make the most of it. No one can do it for us. It is a quality of thought, a state of mind. Let’s adopt a new state of mind about happiness and let’s stop thinking that things outside of our control will bring us happiness. Ultimately, genuine happiness can only be realized once we commit to making it a personal priority in our lives. This may be new behavior for some of us and a bit intimidating. Be gentle with yourself. It will all unfold. Today you may not be familiar with the happiness habit, but like any new behavior, happiness can be learned.

When we learn this happiness, and we learn this sense of gratitude, we reap numerous benefits that will help us to feel better both physically, and mentally. These are some reasons as to how being grateful will benefit us.

  1. Gratitude makes us happier. A study by two psychologists by the names of Dr. Emmons and Dr. McCullough showed that those who expressed gratitude more often during the week than those who did not were shown to feel more optimistic and better about their lives. Another study shows that being grateful allowed an increase of 25% in terms of happiness.
  2. Gratitude keeps us physically healthier. Being grateful allows us to build stronger immune systems, sleep longer and have more refreshing awakenings, and lower blood pressure. Gratitude also lowers stress levels because it allows us to develop a mindset in which we are able to bounce back from both trivial and nontrivial events in our lives, and look for the good in situations of the like.
  3. Gratitude keeps us socially healthy as well. It allows us to become more generous, empathetic, and helpful human beings. We also feel less isolated, and lonely as a result. Gratitude after all, is a social emotion, which helps us to build and strengthen relationships others.
  4. Gratitude boosts our career. Those with bosses that expressed gratitude more often than those that didn’t showed higher work performance in the workplace. Showing gratitude towards coworkers, and those who worked alongside us also benefited both the person on the receiving end, and the person on the giving end.
  5. Gratitude increases spiritualism. Spiritual transcendence is highly correlated with feelings of gratitude.
  6. Gratitude allows us to be in the present. Too often we adapt to goodness, instead of celebrating the goodness. Being grateful allows us to magnify the good things in our lives, and to allow ourselves to extract the pleasures from moments in which we tend to overlook.
  7. Gratitude reduces negative emotions. Being grateful and being envious at the same time is impossible, therefore when we choose to be grateful, we allow ourselves to be free of toxic emotions.

Cultivating Gratitude

Exercise- Take some time out of your busy schedules to sit down and say “I am so grateful that I am here.” Continue with starting with the statement “I am grateful for…” and finish that statement with at least five things that you are grateful for in your life. Repeat, and practice this daily.

Keeping a gratitude journal can also help us to become a more grateful person. Listing down a few things every week about what you are grateful for can allow you to become more aware of the acting of counting your blessings, and to bring about good vibes, and positive attitudes. It also helps us to focus our attention on developing more grateful thoughts than ungrateful thoughts.

Learning how to put things into perspective will also allow you to practice gratitude. In the face of adversity, instead of looking at the negatives of the situation, focus on questions such as “What can I learn from this?” or “How can I benefit from this?”. When we do this, we are able to find greater benefit from even the worst of situations.

Keep your mind filled with thoughts of happiness, health, hope, peace, love, and courage.

Keep in mind that cultivating gratitude does not come naturally. It is a skill that needs to be honed, built, and maintained daily because the brain too easily will focus on the negative rather than the positive. However, with practice and persistence, gratitude will become easier to feel and express, and with that comes a healthier, and happier life.

So the next time something does not go your way, perhaps your car breaks down, or you miss a flight, remember that everything happens for a reason, and at the very least, you are still breathing.

Rhonda Donahue PhD. Author of “The Pollution Inside You!” & “New Zealand’s Natural Health Remedy”  Direct Line (714)863-5959