The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday is all about giving thanks for what you have and expressing genuine gratitude. Life gets better when you become more grateful for what you have. At times, however, feeling grateful is easier said than done, especially when you’re facing many life challenges.
Many people, both young and old, are suffering from anxiety and depression, with severe disorders requiring professional intervention. Mental health struggles make it especially difficult to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, but it’s still possible.
If you don’t have a mental illness, but you do feel down and out (or overwhelmed by the holiday pressures) there are ways to lift your spirits. One of the best ways to lift your spirits is to cultivate an attitude of gratitude. Research suggests that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness.
Being grateful and expressing thanks doesn’t have to be a herculean task. With just a few baby steps, you can shift your outlook on life and be a more grateful person. Let’s discuss why an attitude of gratitude makes for a happier life, and learn how you can be more appreciative.
Why is Feeling Grateful Linked with Happiness?
The root word of grateful comes from gratia, a Latin word meaning grace, gratefulness or graciousness (depends on the context of use). And truly, gratitude encompasses all of these wonderful meanings. Being grateful is an art of thankful appreciation for what you receive, whether tangible or intangible blessings. When you keep an attitude of gratitude, you acknowledge all that is good in your life. Doing so helps you experience the following:
- Feel more positive emotions
- Decrease feelings of sadness
- Revel in good experiences
- Foster stronger relationship bonds
- Boost immunity
- Cope with crisis much better
- Experience less anxiety
- Improve your overall well-being
A Harvard study showed that couples who took time to express gratitude for their partners felt more positive and enjoyed healthier relationships because they could freely express concerns. This is also evident in the workplace because managers who thank their team find their employees happier and more motivated to work harder.
Another study found that grateful people had fewer feelings of envy and were less materialistic. Grateful people are more ready to share their possessions and do not consider material wealth to measure success. When you are not bothered by what others have because you feel genuinely thankful for what you have, you are already living and thriving in a life of abundance.
How to Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude is there for everyone to experience without the need for excessive effort. It’s a free and easy emotion to access. All you have to do is look inside yourself to find it. Now is the time to start counting your blessings instead of your burdens. Below are some ways you can cultivate gratitude and foster an appreciative attitude:
Write in a Gratitude Journal
One of the best and simplest ways to cultivate thankfulness is keeping a gratitude journal. You just need a pen and notebook for writing down at least one thing you’re grateful for before bed. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. For example, write about being grateful for your health and waking up to a brand new day – those are good places to start.
It may be difficult in the start, but over time, you will notice that you can write more details. Make this your evening habit so you can reflect on your day. The Journal of Personality and Social Psychology affirmed that consistently writing down things to be grateful for over the week works much better than a one-time act of thoughtfulness.
When you keep writing, it will transform into a habit, gradually improving your outlook on life in general. Besides, your written words will help ease your mind, especially when you have a rough day. Seeing these accumulated blessings will remind you that life offers many good things.
Say “Thank You” to Others
You can make yourself so much happier when you have good relationships with other people. Nurture those bonds by sending thank you notes. Show appreciation for people and the impact they made in your life. Taking the time to offer these gestures of thanks will make you and the recipient feel happier.
For example, express verbal gratitude to your partner as this builds trust and intimacy. Do the same with your children when you tuck them in bed. You can also express the same sentiments to your friends. Consider these suggestions:
- Use technology to send one gratitude message to your friend via text or chat
- Send a thank you card or flowers “just because” you appreciate their presence in your life
- Harness software by leaving FB comments on how much you value your friends
Volunteer or Lend a Helping Hand
When you help others, you look outward and not inward, diminishing selfishness. Lending a helping hand and offering service to others will make you feel more happy and thankful for your own life. Seeing the struggles of others can be a real eye-opener. When you empathize with the plight of others, you may even realize that your problems pale in comparison.
Besides, seeing how your presence can positively influence someone’s life is heartwarming. And hearing their word of thanks for your time and effort to help will inspire you to do more for your fellow human beings. Here are some ways you can help:
- Volunteer in a nursing home
- Deliver gifts to a toy drive or to those in low-income housing
- Help out in a soup kitchen
- Visit a women’s shelter with food, clothing or gifts
Each time you plan to volunteer, invite family and friends to join you. It feels more rewarding to do these activities with the people you love. Together, you can stay inspired to continue helping out. You will also feel more grateful for the blessings in your lives that you may have otherwise taken for granted.
Surround Yourself with Loved Ones
Nasty people can ruin your day when they are rude, but here’s the good news: you can forget about them. Instead, surround yourself with your loved ones. It is much easier to feel grateful in the company of supportive and caring individuals. If you want abundance in your life, aligning with loving people is paramount.
A social experiment called the Ripple Effect said that individuals increase their happiness levels when they take time out in their day to call people they love and express appreciation for them. Then, your loved ones feel moved, so they reciprocate your feelings, filling your life with so much joy. At the same time, these people feel compelled to share the joy, so they do the same for others creating an endless ripple of gratitude. For example, you can try the following:
- Take a friend out for lunch
- Cook dinner with your mother
- Visit your grandparents
- Watch a movie with your in-laws
- Have dinner with your siblings
- Have a potluck with friends
Learn to Thank Yourself
Self-love is one of the greatest things you can do for your loved ones. Remember, you cannot give what you do not have. No person can ever pour from an empty cup. So don’t forget to thank yourself and pat yourself on the back for accomplishing your responsibilities.
Gratitude doesn’t always have to be centred on what others have done for you. Make sure you have imbibed habits that allow you to appreciate all you’ve gone through. Here are some ways to thank yourself:
- Make healthy sweet treats
- Get a mani-pedi
- Light up aromatherapy candles
- Take a long bubble bath
- Try one of these self-care activities
Gratitude Inventories Help Combat the Blues
Are you feeling blue? One of the quickest ways to dispel energy from a bad day and improve your mood is by doing a quick gratitude inventory. Focusing your attention on what’s good can prevent you from lashing out. Zeroing on the silver lining amid challenges can make you feel more motivated to carry on with grace and resolve issues.
When things are rough, make a conscious effort to pause and take a moment. Then take a quick stock of five things you are most grateful for at that moment. It could be hugging your kids, good health, a great meal, etc. Counting your blessings will help you relax. Instead of focusing on ill feelings, reverting your attention to positive thoughts can help you avoid doing or saying things you may eventually regret.
Practice Mindfulness and Meditation
Mindful meditation is all about focusing on the present moment. This means taking the time to calm yourself down and seeking peace. You focus on the moment without judgment, and instead, you pay attention to your breathing. From there, you will also notice other things like the warmth of the sun, pleasant sounds in nature, the calming breeze, and so much more.
Studies have shown that there is a mind-body connection. Focusing on internal awareness improves your cortisol levels, pulse, blood pressure, immune responses, etc. Thus, internal awareness matters if you want to truly live a happier and more contented life. For those who are religious, meditation can also be linked with prayer, as this is an effective method that helps cultivate gratitude.
Feeling Down? Fight Negativity and Cynicism with Gratitude
A cynical person may end up frowning while reading this article. A cynic is someone whose outlook in life is always negative. They tend to believe the worst in people and situations. As a result, they tend to be selfish due to self-preservation.
Cynical people risk becoming very ungrateful and can destroy positivity by constantly worrying and thinking negative thoughts without knowing it. Can you relate to these traits? Here are some signs of a cynical person:
- Pessimistic thoughts overtake optimistic thoughts
- Always preparing for the worst
- Always suspicious of others
- Discourages everyone
- Finds fault and blame in others
- Blocks positivity from entering their life
- Sabotages good things
- Feels bad when holidays and celebrations come
It is easy to blame the world when things don’t go your way. But remember, there are ways you can improve your situation. You can ask the help of family and friends if you are struggling, and practice gratitude.
Remember that negative thoughts only ensure more negative outcomes. Positive thoughts such as thoughts of gratitude can help bring more positivity into your life.
Feeling Sad and You Aren’t Sure Why?
If you still feel down even though you’ve been counting your blessings and practising gratitude, and you’re not sure why you’re feeling down, it could be health-related.
You could be dealing with a nutritional deficiency that’s causing you to feel low, or there’s something more serious going on that needs medical intervention. Perhaps you have seasonal affective disorder or another underlying health condition. Don’t hesitate to seek the help of a mental health professional.
You may also benefit from a CircleDNA test which reveals your genetic health and disease risks. Finding the root of the problem can help you feel happier and that you have more control over your health.