Did you know that one of the keys to happiness is gratitude?! Being consciously grateful and appreciative will certainly change your life.
Let’s start by defining what exactly gratitude is to make sure we are all on the same page. It is the ability to be thankful and show your appreciation for people’s kindness, love, and help. We feel grateful when we receive gifts, compliments, and favors.
Experts began studying gratitude not more than twenty years ago because they didn’t focus much on positive emotions before the year 2000. We tried to understand what causes stress and anxiety and we missed a lot of opportunities to study happiness, love, kindness, and gratitude.
Thankfully today we know how important expressing gratitude is and its power to improve our lives. Interestingly, many people who feel depressed and unhappy believe there is nothing to be thankful for. The purpose of this post is to convince you that there is, and how our gratitude can even cure depression (in some cases) and make us happier.
Of course, we have to understand that being grateful is easier said than done. Some people have been through a lot more than others, and it often feels as their life is a living hell. They are not only depressed, but desperate, and gratitude is the last thing on their mind.
Maybe some of you lost a good friend or a family member recently. Perhaps you were fired while still in debt. Maybe your partner broke your heart, and you can’t move on. Whatever it is that makes you feel miserable; it doesn’t allow you to see the good things in your life.
It’s easier to appreciate life and be grateful when things are going great. When you have a beautiful family, a place to live and a steady income, you are most certainly thankful for all of that. But if things aren’t going so well, we must put a conscious effort into building a habit of gratitude.
Reflect on your present blessings, on which every man has many, not on your past misfortunes, of which all men have some.
For a long time, philosophers have suggested that gratitude can improve our well-being and emotional state. One of the first people to address this was Cicero (106–43bc)—a Roman orator, lawyer, and philosopher—who said, “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues but the parent of all the others.”
Today, have confirmed the importance of gratitude and developed different gratitude exercises we can all practice. I follow some of these techniques, and they had a very positive influence in my life. Methods such as writing a letter to someone for whom you are grateful and starting a gratitude journal, are simple, yet effective ways to increase this feeling.
My goal here is to give you a lot of examples of things you can be grateful for and appreciate even in your hardest times. Often when I first suggest this exercise to people, they have a hard time thinking of something to be thankful for. What I practice almost every day is writing down three things in my journal that I am grateful for no matter how I feel.
I will give you as many examples as I can, to prove to you that with an open mind you can think of not only three but twenty things to appreciate each day of your life. As I said, when times are tough, it’s hard to see and appreciate the small things, but even life itself is worth to be included on your list.
I want you to buy a notebook and start practicing this exercise daily for at least one month. Remind yourself to follow this rule and create alarms or place sticky notes in your house, so you don’t forget. Start by writing three things you are grateful for in your life or on that day no matter what your overall emotions are.
You can draw inspiration from my list with examples if you have a hard time completing yours.
Occasionally, I want you to think about all the people who are a lot more misfortunate than you are. People in third world countries, those who don’t have access to clean water, people with disabilities. Think about how much worse their lives seem to be and appreciate everything you have. Whatever difficulties you may experience now, someone out there has it much worse.
Maybe you’ve lost one of your parents recently. Some people never had any parents. Are you disappointed you got fired? Remember that some people live on the streets with nothing to eat. Did you partner leave you? In some countries, you get married without ever meeting your spouse before that.
Many of those misfortunate people are happier than some of us who never have to worry about food, shelter, and safety. They have a lot of things to complain about, but instead, they are grateful for what they have. Can you try to do the same and see the results?
With this exercise, you will rediscover everything in your life that you have, need, and love. And even if it won’t change your past, it can improve your future. All you need to do is spend a couple of minutes each day to write down three or more things you are grateful for. Is that so hard?
Remember the last time when you dropped something valuable without noticing, and some kind stranger returned it to you. It could have been your phone that you forgot at the restaurant, your expensive sunglasses, or even a hundred dollars bill that fell off your pocket.
How did you feel at this moment and what was the first thing you said to this person? It was probably something like, “Thank you so much, you are a lifesaver!” or, “I cannot express how grateful I am, thank you so much!”
The last time this happened to me was when I dropped my credit card. Thankfully, someone gave it back a moment later. If they didn’t, I would have ruined my holiday and spent hours on the phone trying to fix this problem. I call this accidental gratefulness because it is something unexpected that suddenly made you feel so happy and thankful. It also feels like you dodged a bullet, and that’s always a positive.
Many researchers, writers, and therapists have noted that gratitude has a positive emotional effect on people. Furthermore, a lot of them have speculated that gratefulness can induce feelings of happiness, contentment, pride, and hope.
Over 90% of participants in a Gallup study of Americans of all ages, indicated that expressing gratitude helped them to feel “extremely happy” or at least “somewhat happy.” All of the research done on appreciation shows we have many reasons to associate experiences of gratitude with happiness and well-being.
Our ability to see, appreciate, and cherish the good moments in life is considered a crucial element in the recipe for well-being, peace of mind, and of course, happiness. Although the positives of gratitude often emerge immediately, they won’t last long if we stop being aware of how fortunate we are.
There is a slight problem that can occur with gratitude, and that’s the expectation to repay acts of kindness. Initially, most people experience positive feelings when they express thankfulness, but some of them may feel obligated to “return the favor,” and this can cause stress and anxiety.
A good example is when somebody at work or school gives you an unexpected Christmas present. It may bring a feeling of gratitude and joy for a bit until we realize we are “supposed” to do the same. Not all people will feel this way, but it’s worth noting it can have a negative weight on us.
If I must answer why you should be grateful with a single word this would be opportunity. Every moment you get is another chance to improve your life, deal with the circumstances, and create something better. Nothing ever stays the same—you could be happy or miserable, but this feeling won’t last forever.
Learn to look back at your life and appreciate everything that happened to you. But most importantly, stay present. Always be aware of who you are, what you have, and savor being alive because it could change at any moment.
Feel unhappy? Well, that’s an opportunity to alter something in your life and become happy. After all, we can’t feel joy without some sadness in our lives. And if everything with you is going great, then you have plenty of reasons to be grateful and take this opportunity to appreciate your good fortune.
Feel free to comment below this article and let me know how do you express your gratitude?
Also, visit my other blog articles here.
Yours, Elliot L’Angelier!