Gratitude is like a lens; choosing to look through it changes so much of how you perceive your life and circumstances. It’s easy, and I dare say normalized in our country/culture to focus on the negatives and take our daily blessings for granted. But choosing to live focused on and grateful for the good in your life, versus what you lack, significantly affects not just your current happiness, it affects what you attract.
It sounds a little ‘hokey’ to say that, but it’s actually backed by science. When we feel grateful, our brain releases dopamine, and because your brain is trained to seek out/return to things that helped it produce dopamine, it starts looking for more things to be grateful for, which produces more dopamine… it’s a positive feedback loop. Studies have also shown practicing gratitude (some of which I’m sure is from the slew of benefits that come from naturally boosted dopamine levels) helps improve your sleep, mental health, self-awareness, relationships, your body’s ability to block toxic emotions that lead to chronic illnesses, your likelihood to take better care of yourself and treat others more kindly… When we feel good, we do good, and it’s all contagious and self-motivating. What you put out is often what you attract back.
Gratitude isn’t not wanting more… it isn’t mutually exclusive with ambition. I believe it’s important to have crazy big dreams and ambitions and to believe in them, and I think based on the scientific benefits of gratitude, always coming from a place of gratitude will actually make them that much more of a reality that much faster.
Gratitude also isn’t ignoring the hard or your feelings, or pretending life is perfect.
Gratitude is not taking anything for granted, it’s feeling appreciation for the valuable (value independent of monetary worth) things in our life, and it’s a way of seeing the good that keeps us open to opportunity and growth, versus obstacles and small minded, negative thinking.
How to cultivate gratitude? A few things I like to do:
Write down things I’m grateful for every morning, even silly little things like my coffee turning out great, because honestly, I am blessed to get to wake up and have as much coffee as I’d like every morning. You could do it midday, in the evening, on your phone, and even send notes to people when you’re grateful for them or a way they’ve blessed you.
Stop for a minute or two during the day to just feel grateful… for being alive, for Geoff and Myko, for a beautiful day, for being productive, whatever comes up.
And a tough one (but one that honestly makes SUCH a difference)… Find at least one thing to be grateful for when I’m facing something hard or dealing with someone difficult, specifically about the situation or person if possible. So often we let ourselves become more negative than is actually true about that person or situation, or even wallow in the awfulness of it all… it keeps us stuck in a victim mindset, blocks us from finding solutions, and makes us feel even more negative emotions which drag us down.
However you do it, training your brain to see and appreciate the good becomes a way of thinking and living that can quite literally change your life. It makes room in even the darkest of times for joy and hope.
Some quotes on gratitude I love:
“Joy, it’s always a function of gratitude — and gratitude is always a function of perspective. If we are going to change our lives, what we’re going to have to change is the way we see.” – Anne Voskamp
“What you appreciate, appreciates.” – Lynee Twist
“A grateful heart is a magnet for miracles.”
“Gratitude is an antidote to negative emotions, a neutralizer of envy, hostility, worry, and irritation. It is savoring; it is not taking things for granted; it is present-orientated.” – Sonja Lyubomirsky
“Be grateful for what you already have while you pursue your goals. If you aren’t grateful for what you already have, what makes you think you’d be happy with more?” – Roy Bennet
“The grass is greener where you water it.”
What are you grateful for today?