We talked about gratitude last week and all the amazing benefits we can gain from this and today we want to look at ways to help express this to ourselves.
Life isn’t always fair and we have to find a way to accept this or it can eat away at us, impacting our ability to enjoy life. Gratitude contradicts the just world hypothesis, which says that we get what we deserve in life. Good things happen to good people, bad things happen to bad people. But it doesn’t always work out that way, does it? Bad things happen to good people and vice versa. Using gratitude can help us come to the realisation that we get more than we deserve, but if we’re not looking then we just won’t see all the things in life to be grateful for. We do live in a society which has a massive perspective into feeling that we deserve everything in life, which isn’t true and it makes it a lot harder to be grateful for things. It’s time to cultivate gratitude, not just occasionally feeling more grateful to actually becoming a more grateful person.
Any new skill in life takes practice and it also means we have to release old negative beliefs and patterns in order to do this. Just because gratitude is good doesn’t mean it’s always easy to do. Practising gratitude can be at odds with some deeply ingrained psychological tendencies such as the self-serving bias. This means that when good things happen to us, we say it’s because of something we did, but when bad things happen, we blame other people or circumstances. Gratitude really goes against this because when we’re grateful, we give credit to other people for our success. We, of course, accomplished some of it ourselves, but we widen our range to also say, my parents gave me this opportunity, or a friend gave me the strength to do this, I had teachers, mentors, siblings, peers etc who assisted me along the way. Which is very different from a self-serving bias, but just think how nice is it to spread the love of our achievements and be more connected to the people who support us in life. It stops us feeling self-centred and reduces our ego which in turn makes us more connected to the true essence of life that we’re all connected to each other. It helps to soften the issues of self-control of life, people and our environment, making us just be more grateful for what we have.
The first thing to do is to start a gratitude journal, don’t make it too big or too complicated as it may then become harder to achieve in the long term. It is best to start small and then you can always build this up as you start gaining the benefits. If you start by listing just one thing a day for which you’re grateful for, it takes hardly any time but by the end of the week, you have 7 things you’re grateful for. This practice works as you make it conscious not just something in your head, thus making it more real to you, helping you to intentionally focus your attention on developing more grateful thinking habit. It’s a great thing to do at bedtime, heading to sleep on the things we are grateful for will help us sleep better too, as it helps to eliminate ungrateful or negative thoughts. Some days there may be more things which come to mind that your grateful and it’s hard to pick the top one so you can add those extra ones too, remember this is for the long hall so a good-sized book for this is essential. Bits of paper can get lost, buy a nice book and pop it by your bed, put in the front the list of all the things you gain by keeping this and make that commitment to yourself to set time aside to do this. Keep it fresh by not just writing the same things, so keep your focus on new things that happen in your life. This over time will help you change the way you perceive situations by adjusting what you focus on. We can be all be thankful for those kind words from a friend, the lovely dinner our partner made and the support we got at work from a colleague. But it’s just as important to stretch yourself beyond the great stuff right in front of you opening your eyes to more of the world around you, which will deeply enhance your gratitude practice. In the morning set your intention to notice one new thing each day, training your brain by paying attention to life’s positives events will allow you to see more and more of them. The positive momentum of looking for things to be grateful for will quickly help you learn to be more grateful and stop you taking things for granted in your life. Over time your journal will build and this will help you grow the excitement about the benefits your gratitude journal is having in your life.
Keep being optimistic about the benefits of a new habit, while also being realistic about how difficult building the habit may be, will help you put more effort in to achieve this. Recognise and plan for the obstacles that may get in the way if at night time you feel too tired to do this, then schedule your gratitude journal time for the morning instead. Some of us wake early with those fears of the day what we will happen, how will we be, putting the journal in place of these worries will make a massive positive impact in your life. If that doesn’t work for you, maybe do your journal while you’re eating breakfast or lunch as you don’t need any more time then to achieve this it only a few minutes a day to get this going. Once the habits start forming it will become easier, as I always say practice makes perfect and with all the benefits, you’re going to be enjoying because of this is so worth it. Do remember like going to the gym it’s not the gym you crave it’s being fit and healthy and the same comes with your journal the actual goal isn’t to have a notebook full of your declarations of gratitude, but rather to make gratitude a default feeling. This is all about helping you feel a sense of abundance in their lives, appreciate the contributions of others to your well-being and recognising and enjoying life’s small pleasures. Setting your mind in the direction will be amazing for you, as you will be focusing on the positive things in life and in turn the negative things will become less noticeable. Acknowledging the importance of experiencing your life in a positive way is key to a happy life. Expressing gratitude in your simple journal helps set your mind on this positive path, just like the gym don’t expect to go once and pop out like Superman, but in a month of going to the gym, you will be starting to see a difference. This is just the same with your journal so take the time to look back in a month and read through your journal, taking the time to reflect on the changes you’re starting to see.
Thanks for dropping by Sara x