There are a myriad of ways to foster an ‘attitude of gratitude’. If you figure out what works best for you, you are more likely to stick with it in the long run. When you find yourself tiring of one practice, seek out another to keep it fresh.
How then do we increase our gratefulness in life?
Herewith some suggestions – pick and mix to suit your whim.
Write it down
Ponder 3-5 things from the mundane to the sublime that you are currently grateful for (remember to include individuals who rock your world). You may only choose to do this once per week (to increase happiness) or every night before going to bed (to help you get some quality zeds).
Tell someone you appreciate them
Is there someone who you have a debt of gratitude to? Let them know. Write a letter or better yet, pop in and tell them face to face. Describe in detail what they have done that makes you feel so very appreciative.
In case you think this sounds all a little ‘airy fairy’ watch this TEDtalk on the ‘power of positivity‘. Martin Seligman and his colleagues tested the well-being benefits of expressing gratitude in this way. They investigated a gratitude visit exercise that was completed over the course of just one week.
In one experiment, participants were given one week to write and then hand deliver a letter of gratitude to someone. A person who had been especially kind and caring to them but whom they had never properly thanked. In other conditions, participants were offered alternative self-guided happiness exercises. Those participants who did gratitude visits showed the largest boosts in the entire study – that is, straightaway they were much happier and much less depressed – and these boosts were maintained one week after the visit and even one month after.
Give yourself a pat on the back
When was the last time you told yourself that you were alright? Hmmm, I’m hearing crickets. I don’t think we spend enough time telling ourselves that we are worthy. I don’t think any of us is going to get a huge ego if we occasionally take a look at ourselves in the mirror and say ‘you’re a bit of alright’ or ‘I love you’. Try it, I dare you.
If telling yourself how good you are is a bit hard, what about spending a bit of time writing down all the things you have achieved in the past month, this year or in your life. I think too many of us spend our time looking at how far we have to go and not appreciating just how far we have come (if you knew me 15 years ago…).
Turn off the social media for a bit
If you find you’ve been in that awful cycle of ‘compareitis’ that everybody’s life is better than yours, get off the ‘Farcebook’ for a bit. Remember, we are all only presenting the picture we want the rest of the world to see and it’s not always based on the reality. Read the previous blog post about how gratitude increases your self esteem ( I haven’t managed to find mine in social media – not that I won’t keep looking!).
For many people, the key to having more gratitude is to give back to others in their local community. Not only will it make you more grateful for the things that you may take for granted, but studies have shown that volunteering for the purpose of helping others increases our own well-being and thus our ability to have more gratitude.
University of Pennsylvania professor, Martin Seligman (loving his work), supports this theory with his research in Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-Being. After testing all kinds of variables that help improve our well-being, he found that volunteering is the single most reliable way to momentarily increase your well-being.
In other words: helping others helps you!
Hopefully that will give you some ideas however, if you would like more suggestions, head over to lifehack.org and check out the list, ’40 simple ways to practice gratitude‘.
I want to say a huge, heartfelt thank-you to everyone I have met this year and to those of you who take the time to read this blog. I also sincerely hope that 2018 is your best yet and that everything your heart desires comes your way.
To that end and as a debt of gratitude to you (and something that has become a Christmas tradition over the past few years) I have donated to CARE Australia. This year it has been to the Myanmar Bangladesh crisis to ensure a hygienic latrine for 10 families. If you would like to donate, please follow this link.