How to Use Gratitude to Be Happier
It can be hard to find peace and contentment in our current culture. The news is filled with violence and discord. Judgement, name-calling, and anger are a common thread in social media. And although social media and the internet are great ways to bring us together, they can also cause us to feel inadequate when we compare ourselves to others who seem so much happier, healthier, wealthier, and wise.
So often we focus on what is wrong in our lives, we forget to notice all that is right.
“If the only prayer you say in your entire life is thank you, that will be enough.” ~ Eckhart Tolle
Focusing on the good in our lives, even the small things, causes a powerful mental shift. But did you know that thoughts of gratitude also affects us in a chemical way? Thinking of the many blessings in our life can alter our brain chemistry by causing a surge in the ‘feel-good’ neurotransmitters, and the more we practice gratitude, the stronger and longer-lasting the positive effects.
But how do we practice gratitude, and more importantly, how do we feel gratitude – when our world seems to be falling apart around us? How do we find gratitude when we are in pain, angry, overwhelmed, or just plain feeling miserable?
Excerpt from Oprah Winfrey’s The Wisdom of Sundays, Life-Changing Insights from Super Soul Conversations:
“I know it’s not easy to be grateful all the time, but I’ve learned that it’s when you feel the least thankful that you are most in need of what gratitude can give you: perspective.
It was Maya Angelou who taught me what she believed to be the true purpose of giving thanks. After I called her years ago, upset and in tears over what I thought someone had done to me, she stopped me mid-sob and said, ‘Stop your crying right now, and say thank you.’
I was confused and asked, ‘Why?’
‘Because,’ she said in that deep, wise, Maya Angelou voice, ‘you know God put a rainbow in every cloud. The rainbow is coming. Say thank you even though you can’t see the rainbow. It’s already there.”
How to Practice Gratitude
- Start small. Find ONE THING you are grateful for, and then find another.
- Start practicing gratitude by setting aside a devoted time each day to write five new things (or more) that you are grateful for.
- Dedicate a few minutes each day to write down five new things you are grateful for – these can be small things like the sound of birds singing outside the window, or a delicious meal you enjoyed.
- Make gratitude a practice when you are struggling with anxiety or overwhelm – when you wake in the night and your mind won’t stop and you feel your anxiety rising – STOP and remember your gratitude.
- Practice gratitude before you slide out of bed each morning.
How to Feel Gratitude
Our culture is hyper-focused on the negative – unfortunately, bad news is what grabs our attention and it’s what sells.
If we aren’t careful, after awhile our brains become trained to look for the negative (it’s a survival instinct.) But practicing gratitude, we start to see more of the good all around us.
Practicing gratitude affects us both physically and emotionally, and only takes a few moments.
Don’t rush it; gratitude works best if we feel the emotion of gratefulness for the blessings in our life, big and small.
I encourage you to work with the practice of gratitude.
So, set your intention, make time, and start feeling the power of daily gratitude.