When you’re running late to work, your child spit up on your new shirt, and the phone is ringing off the hook it can be hard to find any silver lining. Instead, frustration and anger build that ultimately gets taken out on those around you. When you’re stuck in moments like these, it can be hard to see any positive forces.
However, these are the most crucial moments for when you should pause and practice gratefulness. Gratitude helps us see our situation in a way that can lessen the pain and anger, and open up our thinking to new solutions. Unfortunately, people aren’t hardwired to be grateful. But like any skill worth having, it requires practice.
Reasons to be Grateful
Firstly, gratitude helps put situations into perspective. When we only see the bad in everything, our mentally becomes pessimistic. When we choose to look for the good, it becomes more difficult to complain and stay stuck in negativity.
Secondly, gratitude helps us to realize the amazing things we have. We become aware of what blessings have been given to us that we should not take for granted. This helps to lesson our tendency to want more all the time and instead be appreciative of what we already have in life.
Lastly, gratitude makes you happier overall. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude improves health, strengthens relationships, reduces stress and in general makes us more positive people. Being grateful influences both your mental and physical health, but also the mental health of those around you.
How to be Grateful
No one is perfect, so don’t expect yourself to be grateful 100 percent of the time. However it’s not something that you can do passively. You will need to actively retrain your brain to be more positive. Here are some ways you can begin to do that.
Keep a gratitude journal. Each day, jot down one or two things you were grateful for and why. This doesn’t have to be fancy! A quick note about something that made you smile is all it takes. It will help you notice specific blessings in your life and will also be a great point of reference when you’re feeling flustered.
Change complaints into positives. When you find yourself complaining about a negative trait, find a way to switch it into something positive. For instance, if you are agitated about heavy traffic, switch it in your mind to “I’m glad I have more time to spend with myself” or “I have more time to jam out to my favorite radio station.”
Say “thank you” in person. When at all possible, skip the email or text and say thank you to others in person. This will help boost your mood and also improve their day. Face-to-face communication is the strongest way to show your appreciation, but you should try to say thanks as much as you can regardless. For big actions, show your gratitude by creating a hand-written thank you note.
Volunteer in your community. Small acts of kindness make a huge difference in improving your gratitude. This symbolizes that you respect other people and want to offer your time and services to those who need it. Giving to someone else improves your mood while also improving the life of someone else.
Stop comparing. One of the largest drainers of appreciation is comparison. When you are constantly comparing yourself to others who you perceive have it better off, you are telling others in your life that they aren’t good enough. As Oprah beautifully says, “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.”
Learn from bad situations. Because life is a roller-coaster, you are inevitably going to fall into some negative situations. Life will challenge you in these moments, but it’s how you respond to them that matters. When you find yourself struggling, ask yourself what you can learn from the situation. When you look back, what will you be grateful for in this moment? For example, say you lost a loved one. You can be appreciative of those who came to your side and supported you, and for the happy memories you had with the deceased.
When you put in a little effort, you will realize that being grateful is actually pretty easy. Showing others you care about them, and appreciate what they have gone out of their way to do for you, is such a kind gesture. It will only make your life more positive overall! Don’t take the blessings you have in life for granted, and instead give back love and thanks.