One Sunday morning a few years ago, a friend asked, “What’s exciting in your life this week?” Without thinking, I said, “You know, most days I just want to get the kids in bed in one piece and pay the power bill. That’s my main calling.” I said it tongue-in-cheek, but I meant it.
The question (and my response) weighed heavy on my heart for several days. I knew there had to be more to life than just working to pay the bills. But most days, I felt like I was just dragging my wife and kids behind me, as I kept trying to climb the ladder of success.
Gratitude can be broken down to appreciating the good things in your life. It doesn’t always seem simple, though. When things are hectic or stressful, finding the silver lining can be challenging. However, learning how to embrace gratitude can significantly boost your happiness. Being grateful offers a host of other benefits you’re probably not aware of, too. Let’s take a closer look at the concept, ways it can improve your life and how to practice it.
There are many definitions of gratitude. Some people believe it’s a feeling or emotion. Others look at it as more of a mood. Still, some folks think gratitude is a personality trait a person exhibits.
These can all be correct.
In essence, gratitude elicits satisfaction and appreciation in a person through feelings, actions or even inherent qualities. But here’s the thing: even those of us who may be more inclined to feel grateful about particular things still probably need to work on establishing a regular gratitude practice.
Gratitude can be viewed as a practice or something you embrace regularly. Most people practice something because it benefits them. This is true of gratitude. As with other practices, you’ll get better at demonstrating gratitude the more you work at it.
There are many benefits of gratitude that have been scientifically proven. Once you begin to understand these, chances are good that you’ll see why it’s so important to develop a grateful mindset. Gratitude can have a positive effect on both physical and mental health.
Research has shown it to improve relaxation, sleep quality, self-esteem, and energy levels. Being thankful for your blessings can enhance your emotional wellness. You’ll deal better in crisis situations and find you’re more resilient when you’re able to look on the bright side. This can contribute to better relationships, too.
Appreciating the positives in life can simply make you feel happier.
Recognizing your blessings may not come easily at first, but there are some ways to help make it a habit and a regular part of your routine. One of the most convenient and impactful methods for cultivating appreciation is through keeping a gratitude journal. In this practice, you’ll write down three things each day that you’re grateful for, which makes it easier to notice and recognize those good things.
Meditation has also been shown to help. Also, making an effort to thank someone each day, for even the smallest thing, opens your eyes and heart to abundance. Giving back and doing good for others can provide great perspective, as well.
In a different season, my marriage nearly fell apart, due to my constant busyness and drive to do something “big.” These days, gratitude urges me to recognize the privilege of making my wife’s coffee in the mornings and helping with household chores. While I’m prone to complain about my four-year-old’s knees in my rib cage when she crawls into our bed in the middle of the night, gratitude reminds me that she won’t always be this little. The shift for me is trying to breathe in all these memories. Instead of viewing my wife and children as additional baggage – one more responsibility – I now realize they are my greatest gifts.
Gratitude has changed my life. And now you have a better understanding of how noticing every blessing can change things for you, too. Embracing and expressing gratitude are more critical than many of us realize.
Steve Austin is an author, speaker, and life coach who is passionate about helping overwhelmed people learn to catch their breath. He is the author of two Amazon bestsellers, "Catching Your Breath," and "From Pastor to a Psych Ward." Steve lives with his wife and two children in Birmingham, Alabama.