A little gratitude goes a long way. Gratitude, even in small amounts, can enhance our lives by shifting our perception of our situation and circumstances. The good news is that nothing about our situation and circumstances actually needs to change for us to experience gratitude. Gratitude is not about changing things for the better — it’s about appreciating what’s right in front of us. It’s also not a Pollyanna, pie-in-the-sky attitude. There’s no need to deny the difficult realities of the world or life in general. Life happens. What’s amazing is that these difficult realities and feelings of gratitude can co-exist.
Gratitude is both a feeling and a practice. Like anything we practice, it develops over time. It may seem counterintuitive to practice gratitude in times of difficulty, but that’s when we need it the most. By becoming aware of the good things in our lives, no matter how small, we begin to feel a sense of peace and wellbeing. When we practice gratitude as an approach to life, we begin to feel like the calm in the storm as opposed to the calm before the storm. Daily issues and difficult situations lose their hold over us. This is not to say we no longer have anger, frustration, sadness or difficult circumstances in our lives but that we develop healthier, more balanced responses to life. Positivity takes over and we become a sort of living, breathing solution.
The practice of gratitude is simple. It is a learned habit. While some people write in gratitude journals or go out of their way to express thanks, it can come down to something as small as a number two pencil and a yellow sticky note or even your smartphone where you can record your gratitude. One thing that I believe is important — writing out, speaking or stating what we’re grateful for. It’s not enough to be grateful in our heads. Something happens when we write, speak or discuss our gratitude. It’s no longer just a thought. It’s been committed and reinforced.
In an effort to balance life’s realities with gratitude, it can be helpful to acknowledge that we are not in control over many things that weigh us down. We can get rattled rushing from place to place, being stuck in dense commuter traffic or any of life’s normal disruptions. By acknowledging that something is beyond our personal control, we also give ourselves permission to stop berating ourselves over it. For example, we have no control over what others may think. When we accept that, we can start to experience some relief from worry.
Practicing writing a few lines or speaking for a few minutes each day is a great way to take the action of gratitude. By writing down one or two things we can’t control, and following up with what we are grateful for, we are able to shine some light on the dark thoughts in our heads and cultivate positive thoughts in our hearts. This is a meaningful start to each day and it can take less than sixty seconds. With consistency, we move to gratitude in real time as we move through our days, weeks and months. This approach gives us a balanced outlook and can help us through otherwise difficult times. We each have things to be grateful for — and opportunities for gratitude are everywhere.