Science has proven that gratitude makes us happier, more motivated, optimistic, connected, healthier and adds to our ability to build wealth.
All this without having to spend any money.
That is an infinitely positive investment if ever I heard of one!
How does gratitude lead to all of this?
Gratitude attracts more of what we want
Gratitude blesses you. It opens you up so more of what you are grateful for can come in. When you are living in this expansive space you remove the blocks and obstacles that stop this flow.
Whatever we focus on expands. If we focus on the negative, the unhappiness and the perceived shortcomings in our life we will get more of this. It is an obvious follow on that if we focus on abundance and celebrate what we have and what we have achieved we become magnets attracting more of this good fortune.
It is very easy to get sucked into the negative when things aren’t going our way. A simple slide into negativity can become a snowball effect. It’s Monday, your alarm didn’t go off, you overslept. You ladder you tights as you are getting dressed, you miss the train, the coffee queue at your favourite coffee shop is a mile long. Finally coffee in hand you sprint to the office only to spill it as you trip up the stairs. It feels like the bad luck gods are having a laugh.
Everything that happens from this point escalates in severity. This is when the practise of gratitude is at its most powerful and that is why it is at its most difficult to summon.
Gratitude is another muscle we need to strengthen in the good times to make it easier to summon when we are deeply immersed in the bad ones.
Gratitude improves our creativity and problem solving skills
Gratitude expands our minds and puts us in a momentary state of peace, contentment and positivity. This is the portal into our creativity and problem solving capabilities.
Operating from an expansive perspective removes perceived limitations in our thinking and opens us up to alternative solutions. It is from this mindset that we are able to create change in our circumstances and our environment.
We operate in a world that has become synonymous with stress. When we are stressed we revert to familiar, routine activities to limit the potential dangers we may have to face, while also limiting our ability to think of a way out of the situation that is causing us stress.
Gratitude, by enabling us to momentarily mentally remove ourselves from this stress hamster wheel, opens our peripheral vision to other options, we are able to more effectively “think outside the box” as we strengthen our intellectual and social resources.
Gratitude improves our personal relationships
Gratitude increases our optimism, our openness and our ability to be present and focused in the moment.
A study by Bartlett & DeSteno found there is a direct relationship between feeling grateful and being kind and helpful. Grateful people engage in positive social behaviour and are more likely to want to share their good fortune, happiness and contentment with life.
This facilitates stronger personal relationships as well as building our resilience when it comes to having to engage with challenging circumstances, people and situations.
How do you increase gratitude?
Gratitude is a daily conscious habit of being thankful
Our upbringing and social norms have to some extent ignored or diminished gratitude as a life skill as we have been taught to always strive and be dissatisfied with our current circumstance.
We have become gratitude “unfit” for want of a better description and just as we have to exercise consistently to build our physical fitness, we equally need to do so to strengthen our gratitude muscles..
The way to move forward in anything is to start simple daily habits to start to ingrain a new practise. And as humans are very much driven by gratification and reward any change that brings us this is easier to implement. The simple act of gratitude does just that.
Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology found that “when we take time to notice the things that go right, we get little rewards throughout the day through our physiology. Scientifically this means that we literally release dopamine, the neurotransmitter that plays a role in pleasure every time we focus on gratitude. And as a result the more we focus on gratitude, the more we will want to focus on it because it makes us feel good.
Start simple, create a daily list of the people, places and things that make you feel rich in happiness, love and experience. Practise focusing on this list and generating the good feelings that it brings on a daily basis.
Gratitude is a practice of recognising what you don’t have
It is not only about recognising what you do have, it is also acknowledging and celebrating what is absent. Difficult circumstances or individuals that have been removed from our lives or things we don’t have to experience such as hunger, poverty, war, oppression or pain.
How often have you had a cold or something more serious and long for a point in time when you felt better. It takes this “bad” experience to make you appreciate the good. However we seldom celebrate feeling healthy when we do!
Gratitude is being a good receiver
Many of us are good “wanters” but we are not always good receivers. We are often uncertain, uncomfortable and sometimes untrusting of good fortune coming to us. However when we can receive graciously, unconditionally and with an open heart the universe wants to give us more.
Gratitude is looking at burdens and obstacles differently
Can you look at things you feel “burdened” with and transmute them into blessings.
For example a common complaint “I hate weekends because I have to clean the house, do the shopping and find time to spend with my kids” can be easily changed to gratitude for the roof over our heads and the fact that we we have that space to keep clean, celebration that we have the money, the facilities and the resources to go shopping and thankfulness for our wonderful families and the privilege of being able to spend quality time with them.
By wanting what we have and being grateful for everything, abundance, contentment and fulfilment are already ours. What comes after is merely icing on that cake.