Your secret weapon: Gratitude

As I sit here typing I am grateful to finally be working my passion, I have a great new computer to work from, a warm house and office to compile my words and study my art, a loving family at home, and my heart is beating!

    Sometimes however, it is not so easy to feel this way towards ourselves or towards others. If we are under a huge rock of stress, or feeling bitter towards someone, it can be incredibly difficult to think with gratitude. When you are struggling with your 'moment', it's really hard to see positive forces. If your fears are looming and you have obstacles screaming at you.

    Believe it or not this is actually the best time to be grateful, not for what has you stuck in this mud, but for appreciating what doesn't. Gratitude can help us jump out of our box and appreciate the situation for what it is. It can help lessen panic and open our minds to new ideas.

    Humans are sadly not wired to be grateful, therefore it is something we need to work on. It requires practice, this practice however could be well worth it, as many have said the results are life altering.

    Gratitude puts situations into perspective. When we can see the good as well as the bad, it becomes more difficult to complain and stay stuck. Gratitude helps us realize what we have which can reduce our need for wanting more all the time. Gratitude strengthens relationships, improves health, reduces stress, and, in general, makes us happier,

    Be it emotional or tangible gratefulness, research has revealed that gratitude makes a huge difference to peoples life. People don't necessarily require big gestures, just heartfelt ones.

    Genuine appreciation can mean the world to people

    “ The best things in life are never rationed. Friendship, loyalty, love do not require coupons. ” - George T. Hewitt

    Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough are two of the leading American investigators of gratitude. They describe gratitude as personality strength 'the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take them for granted. Grateful individuals express their thanks and appreciation to others in a heartfelt way, not just to be polite. If you possess a high level of gratitude, you often feel an emotional sense of wonder, thankfulness and appreciation for life itself.'

    Research establishes that people who share and openly state their gratitude are healthier, happier and full of energy. These people have found themselves with less headaches, stomach aches, nausea, acne and seem to spend more time exercising. A grateful person is less lonely, stressed, anxious or depressed.

    This I have to say in my own personal research has proven true, after filling out a gratitude diary every night for around a month, where by I wrote 3 things I was grateful for that day, made a huge difference to my perspective on the world. It was anything from being grateful for my children's health and my extended family support, to simple small aspects, like gratitude towards my matching coat hangers and supportive running shoes. It made me appreciate so much more in life, and really made me see the good in every situation. It was weirdly humbling and wonderful.

    I and many others in my course who trialled this found ourselves being less stressed, more content, optimistic and satisfied with life. These were similar to findings of other researchers. Basically revealing that participants who counted their blessings on a regular basis became happier as a result.

    People who write gratitude letters to significant others in their lives, or simply visit them to read the letters out lout experience feelings of elation and as a result the relationship envelops a much closer meaning and pleasure.
    So it certainly seems that developing a higher level of gratitude is emotionally, physically and mentally rewarding.

    Here are some simple ways to start practising gratitude to improve your well-being:

    1. Keep a gratitude journal - At the end of each day, write down 3-5 things from the day you feel grateful for. Simplicity is key. Your baby’s smile, a perfect sunset, the train arriving on time, or your best friend’s laughter. Relish the feeling you get when remembering and writing it down.

    2. Express your gratitude. -Take the time to share your feelings. Not the simple, polite thank you, but the heartfelt emotions. Don't take your loved ones for granted, let them know how much they mean to you.

    3. Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong - Service at the restaurant is poor, but you are lucky to afford an evening out surrounded by good friends.

    4. Practice gratitude with your family and friends – Thank yourself for creating, or whoever made the meal for it, encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day that they feel grateful for. When you hear a friend moaning and complaining, challenge him or her to find the hidden opportunity or silver lining to the situation.

    “If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” – Meister Eckhart

    Why should we be grateful?

    • Because it reminds you of the positive things in your life. It makes you happy about the people in your life, whether they’re loved ones or just a stranger you met who was kind to you in some ways.

    • Because it turns bad things into good things. Having problems at work? Be grateful you have work. Be grateful you have challenges, and that life isn’t boring. Be grateful that you can learn from these challenges. Be thankful they make you a stronger person.

    • Because it reminds you of what’s important. It’s hard to complain about the little things when you give thanks that your children are alive and healthy. It’s hard to get stressed out over paying bills when you are grateful there is a roof over your head.

    • Because it reminds you to thank others. The simple act of saying “thank you” to someone can make a big difference in that person’s life. Calling them, emailing them, stopping by to say thank you … just taking that minute out of your life to tell them why you are grateful toward them is important to them. People like being appreciated for who they are and what they do. It costs you little, but makes someone else happy. And making someone else happy will make you happy.

      So I think its safe to say, there are really no disadvantages in being grateful. Gratitude is an amazing quality to have embedded in oneself, for personal reasons, and to make others happy.

    So...What are you grateful for today?

    Written by: Jess Eastwood