Living a happy life is as easy as being grateful. Gratitude has been shown to improve various aspects of life, including health, daily satisfaction, and the way we relate to others. It’s the act of being mindful by focusing on the present and appreciating what you have now, instead of wanting more.
When we express gratitude, our mental focus becomes more positive, which creates a healthy counterbalance to the brain’s natural impulse to focus on threats, worries, and other negative things. Research has found that expressing gratitude results in positive emotions like joy and satisfaction, which can loosen the grasp of negative emotions like anxiety. By harnessing gratitude, you can broaden your thinking, develop cycles of positive thoughts, and act in positive ways.
How to Grasp Gratitude
The meaning of gratitude is to appreciate what you have. When you’re feeling spoiled, remind yourself to be grateful. However, embracing gratitude as a feeling is another story; it’s what makes it such a powerful yet simple tool.
A gratitude session is an easy way to begin. Simply make a list of things that you’re grateful for. You can also leave notes for your future self to reinforce the positive lessons learned. Robert Emmons is a gratitude researcher who recommends that we keep in mind the bad events of our lives. We tend to be less grateful during good times. When we’re doing well, we can lose sight of what got us there – our failures, and how we overcame them.
Emmons recommends a small exercise that involves reflecting on our unhappiest moments, then asking ourselves the following questions:
- How often do you find yourself thinking about this?
- Does the contrast with the present make you feel grateful?
- Do you appreciate just how much better your life is now?
These questions can assist in realizing that life may be better now, and also help us appreciate where we are and how far we’ve come.
Listing all the positive aspects of your life right before heading to sleep in a gratitude journal is also helpful. Another option is to start a journal about how far you’ve come, writing down all the negative incidents from your past and noting how you’ve conquered them. (Observing past negative experiences can be unsettling though, so be mindful of that.)
Being aware of the present and taking time to tune in to your life are both key to being grateful. Once you grasp the idea of gratitude, you’ll have more control. It will benefit your relationships, and help you get through difficult times.
Gratitude Gives You Strength
Emmons found that people are generally happier when they keep a gratitude journal. Researchers tested this by asking participants within a control group to record daily events, and another gratitude group to create an unbiased list of the things that made their lives better. The study revealed that the group that recorded daily positive thoughts felt more satisfied with their lives, more optimistic, and were more connected to others. Overall, a gratitude-filled life leads to improved well-being.
It’s true that thinking happy thoughts and maintaining a positive mindset can lead to a happier life. This mentality is especially helpful when life takes a turn for the worst. Instead of directing your energy into negativity, recall the things in life to be happy about; this can be an effective way to bounce back from trauma.
Findings have shown that positivity in the wake of a crisis can protect against depression and assist in development. Gratitude acts like a shield; it won’t fix a negative situation, but it can help you cope with the aftermath of a tragedy.
Gratitude Provides Control
Have you ever felt overwhelmed by your emotions? This can happen when we allow negative situations to control us. If you’ve ever felt this way, it’s important to embrace gratitude and focus on the things in life that make you happy. This gives you control over your emotions, rather than allowing yourself to be controlled by them.
When we talk about our finances, for example, we tend to concentrate on what we don’t have. Our goals usually consist of wanting more and attaining it by progressing, which is good; that’s how we accomplish things. But it also gives the impression that what we currently have isn’t enough, which may not be true.
Sometimes we make mistakes that drown us in fear during the recovery process. You may have spent all your savings, and the thought of rebuilding from scratch may feel overwhelming. But you eventually learn from your mistakes, make the right choices, and overcome your fear. At this point, it’s important to focus on what you have rather than what you don’t, and what could be instead of what wasn’t. This concept of gratitude helps you feel in control, which is necessary to keep your finances in check. Striving for more is harmless, but reassuring yourself that your life is under control makes it easier to strive for more.
Gratitude works best when you build your lifestyle around the concept. Try it out and take a moment to harness positive thoughts. Think about where you are today and all the things that you appreciate in your life. Embrace this attitude every day, and you’ll see the difference it can make.
Kevin Nwankwo | Contributing Writer