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How to be grateful

2012-11-21 11:38:07

Published on 2012-11-21 11:38:07

As the year draws to a close, it’s only natural that we begin to reflect on the year’s events and what we’ve achieved. In the high pressure, success obsessed culture in which we live, our natural reaction is to berate ourselves for goals that we’ve failed to meet, and resolutions that have fallen by the way side. What we fail to register are all the simple, yet good things about our lives that we take for granted daily. A month ago I lost my darling mother unexpectedly, and everything else seemed to pale into insignificance. Although the pain of losing my mum will never fade, her death has altered my perspective on life in a powerful way: we have only one life, we must live it to the full, appreciating and being grateful for all we have. So when life is getting you down, how do you stop yourself bemoaning all that’s ‘wrong’ and feel gratitude instead?

Keep a ‘gratitude journal’

Each day, make a note of 10 things that you are grateful for – they don’t need to be life altering. It might be something as simple as a beautiful day, the fact that someone smiled at you, or an enjoyable coffee with a friend. In fact the simpler the better – this gets your mind focussed on finding good things about your life, rather than being in fault finding mode. A recent study found that people who kept a gratitude journal for just 3 weeks scored 25% higher on life satisfaction than those who didn’t, and this effect lasted for several months.

Be grateful for the small things

How often do you think about how fortunate you are to have a home, to have good health or a loving family? These things get taken for granted when we’re caught up in the day to day pressures of life. Yet for many people across the world having such things are merely dreams, not reality. When you find yourself focussing on some petty concern feel gratitude for the basic things that you have in life.

Focus on the good in you

In the internal chatter of your mind do you hear a constant stream of negative comments? I’m stupid, I’m a failure, I’m too fat, too thin, I’m a bad person, and so on. Part of being grateful is to show gratitude towards you. What about you are you grateful for? In your gratitude journal, make at least 5 of the things about YOU.

writing a gratitude journal

Show your gratitude to others

Having an ‘attitude of gratitude’ is also about showing your gratitude to others. Tell those that you value that you love them and feel fortunate to have them in your life. If someone touches your life in some way, express this too. I was fortunate enough to have a relationship with my mother where we told each other how much we cared every time we spoke or saw each other. I am so grateful that she died knowing that I loved her.

Put life in perspective

When you strip life down to its basic components, the most important things are love, health, happiness and the means to maintain them. In society, we’ve come to equate a successful life with money and power, yet it can equally be about a simple and peaceful way of life. Get your own life in perspective; know what deep down is really important to you and focus on it. When you do this, you live a meaningful life true to yourself and without regrets. If you need a dose of perspective on life read ‘The Top Five Regrets of the Dying’ by Australian palliative nurse Bronnie Ware. The insights of the dying are a stark reminder that we need to live each day as if it’s our last and feel grateful every step of the way.

Adopt an attitude of gratitude and live a more satisfying and fulfilling life.

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