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Choosing Gratitude – The Recipe for a Happier, More Meaningful Life

choosing gratitude for a happier and more meaningful life “When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” ~ Lao Tzu

Your feelings are your choice. You can choose to feel down or you can choose gratitude, which opens your world to peace, happiness and health. Gratitude means being continually mindful of how much you’ve been given. To say you’re grateful doesn’t mean everything in your life is great all the time. It just means you can see the goodness. Yet, because our brains are hardwired to track danger and potential challenges, we aren’t primed to notice the beautiful things around us. Instead we take things, ourselves and others for granted.

It’s easier to be grateful when things are going well. But it’s harder to stay open to gratitude during depressing times, tragedies and challenges. (When the attack on Paris happened I felt so sad and powerless against the enormous tragedy. At the same time, I felt deep gratitude and blessing for how the world came together to show solidarity toward France).

What happens when you withhold gratitude?

  • You’re more subject to depression and affliction.
  • You experience greater wear and tear when life brings challenges.
  • You naturally focus on what’s bad and hard.

On the other hand, what are the benefits of choosing gratitude?

  • Gratitude shifts your focus from what you think your life lacks to the abundance you already have. 
  • Gratitude makes you happier and more resilient.
  • Gratitude strengthens relationships.
  • Gratitude improves your immune system and your health.
  • Gratitude reduces stress and depression.
  • Gratitude increases determination, optimism and energy.
  • Gratitude makes reaching your personal goals more attainable.
  • Gratitude puts situations into perspective so you don’t complain or stay stuck.
  • Gratitude lessens panic and opens up your thinking of new solutions as you see what’s still working for you.
  • Gratitude helps you learn to love and accept yourself as you are.

 

Feeling gratitude is good. Expressing gratitude is better. Dr. Emmons, author of the book, Thanks! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happierfound that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness levels by 25%. This means your natural happiness set-point becomes, and is sustained at, a higher level regardless of outside influences.

What’s the first step in becoming more grateful? First you must learn to recognize what you’re grateful for. Try this gratitude exercise: 1) Imagine losing the things you take for granted – your home, a relationship, your senses such as hearing and seeing, your ability to walk. How does that feel? 2) Now, imagine getting each one back again. Fully experience the gratefulness wash over you.

Next, learn to acknowledge and appreciate the goodness in your life by daily journaling a gratitude list. Here are 12 suggestions for how to do that…

  1. Open your mind by attaching appreciation for everyone you contact daily.
  2. Get a beautiful journal and pen to record your special gratitude list.
  3. Commit to a regular time each day to write in your gratitude journal.
  4. Write 10 different things you’re grateful for and describe how they make you feel.
  5. Close your journal and breathe deeply as you center yourself in your feelings.
  6. Be amazed at all the goodness you’ve been taking for granted.
  7. Reframe every negative into a positive.
  8. When something bad happens, think, “What can I learn? When I look back on this moment, what will I be grateful for?”
  9. Give one genuine compliment daily by specifically saying what you appreciate about someone or about what they’ve done.
  10. Ask someone to share your appreciation. For example, “I think this sunset is gorgeous, don’t you?”
  11. Cultivate humility to let gratitude in…accept that you need others to make your life complete.
  12. Allow yourself to be human. If you miss a journaling day, do it the next.

 

Gratitude is a powerful emotion for both the giver and the receiver. Yes, you must receive gratitude from others, as well as, give it. In doing so, you gift the giver with feeling capable, needed and valued.

It doesn’t happen over night but you can learn to become aware of and acknowledge everything you receive, whether good or bad, with gratitude. Contact me if you’d like to work with me in person or over skype to learn to live a more grateful and embodied life.

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