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When life becomes overwhelming, it’s easy to get hung up on the things you don’t have—more money, fewer responsibilities, more free time… the list can be endless. While all of these are goal-worthy dreams, living in the endless cycle of have-nots can begin to take its toll on your day-to-day life. You can find yourself feeling unhappy and unfulfilled, short-tempered, short-changed and resentful.
The upside to all of this is you can shift your perspective and strengthen your brain’s “gratitude muscle” by practicing a bit of gratitude each and every day—just list all the things/people for which you are grateful. It doesn’t take any extra time; you can do it while at the gym, walking the dog or in the elevator.
Research shows that gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. It helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve health, deal with adversity and build strong relationships. Studies are finding that an ounce of gratitude is worth a pound of cure.
“The practice of gratitude can have dramatic and lasting effects in a person’s life,” says Robert A. Emmons, professor of psychology at UC Davis and a leading scientific expert on the science of gratitude, in this article. “It can lower blood pressure, improve immune function and facilitate more efficient sleep. Gratitude reduces lifetime risk for depression, anxiety and substance abuse disorders, and is a key resiliency factor in the prevention of suicide.”
Each time you're feeling frustrated or find yourself slipping into a negative headspace, revisit your gratitude list. Sometimes all you need is a little reminder of the good things in your life to get you back on track.
To get you started, here is a short sampling of gratitude practices you can use to build your own daily gratitude habits. By practicing gratitude, you will change your perspective and become more aware of the countless blessings you have in your life.
- Before you get out of bed in the morning, be thankful for the gift of a new day. It holds such promise!
- If you have a hectic morning routine, remind yourself how blessed you are to be able to meet the demands of both yourself and those who depend on you.
- As the day passes, anytime you see something or someone that elicits positive feelings, remind yourself how lucky you are to have these things and people and write them down in a gratitude journal.
- When you move about—whether it’s on foot or with the aid of technology—be grateful you have the freedom to go where you like.
- When interacting with people, make eye contact and show you are truly present in the conversation.
- Each time you drink or eat something, remember that each bite of food or sip of clean water is a gift.
- Be thankful that you are in good health and have family and friends who love and support you.
- Show gratitude when someone does a good job or deed. Praise them and watch their day become a little brighter, too!
- At bedtime, be thankful you made it through the day so that you could lay down and sleep in a warm, safe environment.
This is only the tip of the iceberg but give it a try. When you get into the habit of feeling grateful, a whole new world of possibilities opens up because you’ve opened up to them.