In my previous post, I explained the benefits of gratitude. Yes, being grateful can make you happier and see your life in a more positive light, and thus it will help you become more successful. However, an important follow-up to this is how to cultivate gratitude in order to reach these goals. Below I list a few ways to apply gratitude in your life, and the lives of others.
List Some People and Things You Are Thankful For
Studies suggest that listing three to five things you are grateful for each day can make you happier and healthier. That is it. It takes maybe ten seconds. This is a great habit to get into. If you’re like me, you like to keep things as simple as possible, because it means you are more likely to do it. You could keep a detailed gratitude journal or list. However, you can also just name three to five things you are thankful for on the way to, or from, work. Personally, I list a few things I am grateful for as a part of my morning prayers and meditation on the way to work. I also keep a running list on Google Docs. I try to name five things each day. I do this to keep gratitude fresh in my mind.
At first it may be hard to come up with things, but don’t overthink it. Most days you will be grateful for ordinary things, and that is really the point of this exercise anyway. Some days I mainly list things like “ate at the Chinese buffet” or “finished a project for work” or something of that nature. Try to include people, things, and situations in your gratitude list.
Include Things You May Not Initially Be Grateful For
One of the great things about gratitude is that it changes your perspective. To really see this in action, try finding things you are thankful for about difficult people and situations. For example, maybe an ex-girlfriend or your jerk of a boss. I am not saying your ex will suddenly become a great person, or your boss will be less of a jerk, but it is always a good idea to challenge negative frames we have related to our perceptions of others. Maybe your ex-girlfriend did care about you in a strange way. Maybe your boss does his best to get the job done in the way he knows how. Maybe regardless of how they treated you, you are a better, stronger person because of it.
I have had a pretty negative attitude about a certain company I deal with. But the other day I realized that in all of my complaints they still pay me and do a lot for me. It really did change my perspective. I now go into meetings with a little more positive attitude, and as I have done that, it seems the people there give me more positive vibes as well.
Rattle Off Some Gratitude When Things Get Rough
People and situations can drive us batty, make us angry, and depress us. One quick and easy way to immediately put things back in a positive perspective is to just rattle off a few things you are thankful for. Is your boss ticking you off? Your kids driving you nuts? Did you get dumped? Then immediately say five things you are thankful for. This is a great remedy to prevent you from spiraling into a chain of anger and depression.
Take It Further With Future Gratitude
Joe Dispenza wrote Breaking the Habit of Being Yourself, a book that has shaped my understanding of reality. Whether you get into his speculative science or not, he basically asserts that to change your life, you must change your entire being, i.e. your thoughts and emotions. One way to do this is to list things you are grateful for that haven’t even happened yet. This is not some sort of magic, but it is yet another way to change your perspective. By listing future events you are grateful for, you are priming your brain for positive experiences. For example, I may say “I am thankful for a great presentation” or “I am grateful that I find the perfect job.” This actually tells the brain that you will give a great presentation and find a great home you are looking to buy. This helps your brain see things in a new way.
Express Your Gratitude
Finally, expressing your gratitude goes a long way to increasing happiness, but also becoming more popular. People like people that appreciate them. In other words, if you can express your gratitude, people will like you more. Many times we feel as if “people just know” we are thankful. This doesn’t cut it.
There are people who were once in my life who aren’t now that I wish I could have expressed my gratitude to. They made me happy and a better person. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to tell them how grateful I was for them. Don’t wait.
When I was a teacher, I may have known my students were grateful for what I did for them (I know body language, etc.), but when they actually expressed it, it made my day. Also, a simple “thank you” isn’t always enough. People like to know what they did that you appreciated it.
So, here is a great way to express your gratitude. Say thanks and explain why. Be fairly specific. For example if a guy at work helped you meet a deadline, let him know. You may say “thanks a lot man, your knowledge and hard work made this possible!” Who wouldn’t feel good upon hearing that? Maybe you are late to a meeting, and you are grateful everybody stuck around to wait for you. Express that!
Gratitude may not seem “manly” but it really is. Which is more manly, a depressed and angry dude with no friends, or a happy and popular guy with friends and women swarming around him? I think we all know the answer!