You have endless opportunities to express gratitude multiple times every day. What makes it difficult for everyone is that negative thoughts in their minds can prevent them from being grateful. When you experience negative thoughts there is a tendency for you to focus your attention on these and let negative emotions such as anger, fear and anxiety take over your life.
Of course sometimes these emotions are helpful to us by protecting us from real danger but often they are irrational. The trick here is to not let them dominate you so that they become the driving force in your life and what you will experience.
In order to overcome this problem you will need to put in some consistent effort to break negative patterns and introduce positive ones that will give you a new perspective on life. It is going to take time to do this. You wouldn’t expect to go on a diet for a day and lose all of the weight you want, and keep it off, would you?
We are talking about long term changes here. So we are asking you to commit to these changes so that you can develop your attitude of gratitude. With regular practice you can make the changes in your life that you need and they will then form a new habit which you will then have on auto pilot.
Always remember that no matter what is going on around you there is always a chance for you to express gratitude. Even when you are extremely frustrated and disappointed about a situation you will be able to see a reason to be grateful in it. Once you accept this then you are really on your way to an attitude of gratitude.
Developing habits for gratitude
When you decide to change any routine or behavior you must accept that it is going to take time and persistence to develop this into a brand new habit. Think back to when you first learned to drive a car. You had to focus on many different things to travel safely for a short distance. Now you can drive hundreds of miles without even thinking about it.
When enough time has passed the new behavior or routine just becomes something that you do automatically. But leading up to this you will have to put in the effort and make some difficult transitions and you will often need encouragement and support.
Do not underestimate the effort and attention to detail that you will need to develop a gratitude habit. Think about the end result here – there are so many benefits to having an attitude of gratitude and you can use this to drive you forward and put in that consistent effort.
There has been a great deal of research on the subject of gratitude and some of the most notable benefits of this are:
• You will be aware of the abundance that already exists in your life
• It will help you to have more abundance in your life
• It will help you to minimize the stress in your life
• It will make you a lot more optimistic about your future
• It will provide you with an increased sense of community
• It will improve your resilience to handling difficult events
• It will increase your sense of emotional well being
• It will increase the amount of physical activity in your life
• It will help you to sleep better
• It will improve your physical health
• It will reduce feelings of depression
• It will reduce feelings of anxiety
• It will give your immune and cardiovascular systems a boost
We recommend that you print this page or write down these benefits so that you can look at them every day to drive you forward to develop your gratitude habits. It is going to take time and persistence to create new habits so having something like this list of benefits will motivate and inspire you.
What happens if you do not follow through on your gratitude habit changes on a particular day? Well you do not want to stress about this or beat yourself up. Just pick up where you left off the next day and try and be as consistent as possible.
After a while you will find that your gratitude habit becomes automatic for you. When you are trying to make real changes in your life you need the patience and persistence to see them through. Developing good gratitude habits is no different to making any other change in your life. Just keep on practicing and you will reap the rewards.
Here are three great gratitude habits you can start practicing right away:
1. Practice your giving
When you look around at society today do you see many “entitled” kids and young people? One of the biggest barriers to gratitude is entitlement. A lot of people these days think that the world owes them and if this is the case for you it will be tough for you to be really appreciative about what you already have.
You must overcome entitlement to develop an attitude of gratitude. The good news is that there are a number of ways that you can do this. One of the first things that you can do is to adopt a grateful attitude in your home. While you are doing this you can teach your children the importance of gratitude and why it is much more important than entitlement.
If you really want to be a good gratitude teacher you need to engage in interactions and activities based around giving, sharing and connecting with others as opposed to doing things and always expecting something in return.
While most people in the modern world will give thanks automatically there is still a great deal of entitlement thinking going on. A lot of people these days live in a constant state of disappointment because they do not receive the things that they believed they are entitled to.
So practice giving without expecting anything back. It is foolish to believe that the world owes you anything – it doesn’t. When you believe you are “owed” you will experience a life of continual disappointment, frustration and resentment.
2. Gratitude thank you notes
We have already mentioned that writing things down has a certain power to it. So another good way to break down entitlement and transition to gratitude is to write simple “thank you” notes for people.
A lot of people have negative connotations about thank you notes. When they were younger their parents pushed them to write long thank you notes to family members and other people expressing their gratitude about something. These notes had to be long because the parents felt that the person receiving the note would really appreciate this.
If you were subjected to this, and many people were, then the thought of writing thank you notes may fill you with dread. It can overwhelm you and you end up procrastinating and not writing the note at all. Feeling obligated to write these kinds of notes is not a good thing and you need to change your thinking here.
What you need to do in this situation is move past the feelings of “obligatory gratitude” and transition to “reflective gratitude”. With reflective gratitude you will take a step back and reflect on the event associated with the thank you note. Make sure that you experience all the emotions that happened at the time.
This should help you realize the benefit of what the person has done for you. You can then write a thank you note from the heart which will be very well received. A thank you note written in this way will have a significant impact on the receiver.
A thank you note written when you are feeling obligated will have nowhere near the same impact. So just turn this around to reflective gratitude and it will be a lot easier for you to write something totally sincere that the receiver will greatly appreciate.
With these kinds of thank you notes you will always get a response from those that received them. This is excellent for your attitude of gratitude development as you will see firsthand how your application of gratitude has affected those close to you.
3. Start a gratitude journal
Another great habit to cultivate on your attitude of gratitude journey is the use of a gratitude journal. We have already talked about this before and it is something that we highly recommend you do.
When you wake up each morning think about three things that you are grateful for. Write these down in your journal immediately. Reflect on all three things and then write in your journal why you are grateful for each one.
So for example you could be grateful for having a job that pays all of your bills and puts food on the table. Think about why this is important to you and then write this reason. An example could be “with the money from my job I can take care of my family who I love deeply and ensure that they have good food and shelter”.
You need to write your own reasons down. Everybody is different and what is important to you may not be as important to someone else so resist the temptation to go searching for examples online. It is your gratitude journal and nobody else has to see it. So just be yourself, write in your language and make sure that your feelings are really strong.
Before you retire each night think of another three things that you are grateful for and then follow the same process in your journal. This might be a challenge for you at first, but in a short time you will look forward to making your daily gratitude entries.
A great benefit of a gratitude journal is that you can look back over it and reflect. It doesn’t matter if you have been grateful for the same thing more than once. The important thing is that you have expressed your gratitude and committed it to paper. It will not take you very long to make your gratitude journal entries each day so persevere with it – it will soon be an automatic thing for you to do.