Living with Gratitude: Opening the Door for Self-Improvement
More often than not, we find ourselves going through life with a lot of anxiety, stress, sadness and hurt and mostly for things that are beyond our control. In the present world, it seems that we are all in a craze to achieve what society defines as success, for us to reach some form of happiness and satisfaction. As a result, we end up being resentful and bitter about everyone and everything around us and in our lives. For instance, do you ever follow celebrities on platforms such as Instagram, Facebook or even Snapchat and after going through their profiles you feel some form of emptiness and low self- esteem? If that is the case, then like me, you need to make a conscious decision to view the glass as half full rather than half empty. Basically, living gratefully means having a deep appreciation for everything and everyone around us. It is when we intentionally choose to appreciate the good and the bad experiences in our lives as they are all meant to teach us something.
Ideally, we would all believe that gratitude simply means saying thank you but the truth of the matter is it goes beyond that. Gratitude is a feeling that outshines all other emotions and it comes with humility and in most cases it is contagious.
According to Dr. Robert Emmons the author of Thanks, How the New Science of Gratitude Can make you Happier states that without gratitude life can be depressing and impoverished. He acknowledges the fact that gratitude enriches human life by elevating, energizing, inspiring and transforming the quality of human life. He goes on to note that those who practice gratitude living in most cases experience significant improvement in almost all areas of their lives and they became better at handling tragedy and crisis. There is compelling evidence that suggests that being grateful actually brings in more things to be grateful for.
Dr. Rick Hanson a Neuroscientist is of the idea that the brain takes the shape of the state of mind we rest upon. Therefore, if we rest our minds upon worry, annoyance, irritability, and sadness, the end result is that we start to suffer from anxiety, depression or even anger. However, if we rest our mind upon being thankful, we end up with happiness.
In simpler terms living with gratitude means to intentionally count our blessings and choosing to embrace the things that do not turn out as we want. Once we learn to live with gratitude, we learn to find joy in things that would necessarily appear as mere routine and normal and the result is we will live a happier and more satisfactory life.
My idea of being grateful for everything around us is taking time to appreciate ourselves, others, our surroundings and life events in general. It is taking a pause from life’s hustles and bustles and to look into life in a more colorful and blissful way. As we learn and aspire to express gratitude, a ripple effect is generated through all spheres of our lives, absurdly we are able to satisfy our deepest desires of a fulfilling life, happiness, better relationships, peace of mind and health and wholeness at large. It is important to understand that gratitude takes place in three levels in our mind. First, we cognitively recognize the benefits of gratitude, then we willing acknowledge these benefits and finally, we emotionally, appreciate the giver of the gift and the gift itself. As such gratitude requires a conscious mental recognition, the will power to enforce it and emotions to make it meaningful.
Benefits of Gratitude
After understanding what gratitude living actually means and how it works, at this juncture, we need to consider what benefits it would bring to us if we decided to reform and actually live with gratitude. According to research by psychologists, gratitude living has seven major benefits that are scientifically proven. To begin with, when we learn to live with gratitude, we open doors to more meaningful relationships in our lives. When you are appreciative of people and your surroundings, you are more likely to attract more people to yourself as you appear more friendly and pleasant to them. According to a study that was conducted and published in 2014 by Emotions, the study showed that people who practiced gratitude living end up making new friends and were easily chosen by people looking to make new friends. In addition to that, grateful people create more attachments and connections and in most cases, they tend to be more altruistic, generous and empathetic, qualities that attract people to them.
Secondly, gratitude living helps in improving our physical health, I know at this point you are asking yourself what is the connection between being appreciative and being healthy and in good physical condition. According to recent research published in Personality and Individual Differences, people who are grateful tend to take good care of their bodies by eating healthy and exercising regularly as compared to people who do not express gratitude. Due to their nature of viewing everything as a gift, grateful people tend to take care of their bodies more as a symbol of appreciation to their bodies and the giver of life.
Furthermore, Dr. Robert Emmons, a well-respected gratitude researcher has carried out multiple pieces of research that clearly show the link between gratitude living and improved psychological health. According to his research, he notes that living a life of gratitude gets rid of negative and toxic emotions such as resentment, frustration, envy and inferiority complex and replaces all these with feelings of happiness and contentment, therefore, improving our psychological health. In addition to that, it is proven that being grateful enlace one to have better sleep. Dr. Rick Hanson, a neuroscientist confesses that when he embarked on a journey to purposively be grateful for the things in his life, he experienced better sleep patterns. In my view, when we learn to be grateful, we stop all the winning and complaining and gradually our stress levels reduce thereby enabling us to achieve a clearer state of mind that enables us to sleep better.
Amy Morin a psychotherapist and author of 13 Things Mentally Strong People Don’t Do, confesses that grateful people have better coping mechanisms and they are strong mentally. She notes that gratitude not only aids in overcoming stress but also plays an important role in overcoming a traumatic experience. In most case, gratitude helps us to bounce back to life when we are overcome by traumatic experiences in life because it makes us more resilient and we are able to get closure sooner than people who always see the glass as half empty. Lao Ztu says, “when we realize that there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to us.”
How Gratitude Works
Ideally, gratitude is meant to appreciate others and the circumstances surrounding our lives and also improve the quality of life that we have. Personally, I live by the mantra that gratitude puts a “Marc” of positivity in our lives. “Marc” is an acronym that means;
- Ma- Magnifying the good.
- R- Rescuing us from negativity and,
- C- Connection using to others.
The same way, we tend to amplify our problems by whining and complaining about them. Gratitude works in the same way the only difference is that gratitude magnifies the good around us, in us and in others. When we purpose to be grateful we are choosing to amplify and multiply the good around us through seeing things from an appreciative outlook.
Secondly, gratitude rescues us from the negativity that spews from ourselves, our surroundings and the hustles and bustles of life. In the present world, it takes conscious effort not to sink into depression or anxiety with all the financial, relational and societal constraints being experienced. With all the negativity threating to take a toll on us, gratitude is the only antidote for combating all the negativities with positivities.
Through gratitude, we are able to connect with us thereby cementing the fact that were are social beings. As we mentioned earlier, people are attracted to people who are appreciative of others and themselves. As such, gratitude helps in connecting us with others in a bid to form meaning relationships that eliminate our chances of being lonely in this world.
It is important to note that gratitude is the key to living a contented life and as much as we would like to wallow in our sorrows, the answer to our problems simply lies within ourselves. When you decide to live a grateful life, you might just be able to meet the right person, have better sleep, that condition might just go away or even you might just become focused and productive at what you do.
Why Use a Gratitude Journal
Just the same way we jot down that important message so that we do not forget, over the years I have learned to jot down all the things am grateful for and have those sticky notes on my bathroom mirror and my bedroom wall. I see them as living proof that my life is not as bad as I would want to make it look like. A gratitude journal is a diary in which we write down all the things that we are happy and appreciative about. According to psychologists, having a gratitude journal forces us to pay attention to the small ordinary things in our life that we would necessarily not pay much attention to. For most people noting down the good things in their lives helps them to deal with the rough times that might pop up during the course of life.
People keep a gratitude journal for many different reasons, to begin with, it is said that it helps in stress reduction. It is easier to process something when you can see it read it and write it rather than when you just have it in your mind. More often than not, when you journal about the good things you have experienced in life, you tend to focus more on them and forget about your worries and anxiety.
Psychologists and psychotherapists advocate for people to keep gratitude journals as it eventually changes their outlook of life in general. If we all decide to journal about the things that we are grateful about every day, chances are we will end up being optimistic people and hence we will have fewer cases of people suffering from mental illness. A gratitude journal is a tangible proof that life can be rosy and colorful depending on the lenses that you choose to use to view life. Anna Huffington from Huffingtonpost.com says that “Gratitude works its magic by serving as an antidote to negative emotions. It is the pathogen-fighting cell for the soul, protecting us from cynicism, entitlement, anger, and resignation.”
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