At the end of the day, before you close your eyes, breathe deeply, appreciate where you are and be grateful for what you have. Life is good.
Most of us have amazing family members, friends and other loved ones who love us back. Learn to appreciate what a gift it is. Most of us have good health, which is another gift. Most of us have eyes to enjoy the amazing gifts of the sunset and the nature and beauty all around us. Most of us have ears to enjoy music – one of the greatest gifts of them all.
We may not have all these things, because we cannot have everything, but we really have a lot to be grateful for. To a certain extent, we already know this, and yet we forget. It happens to the best of us.
Sometimes Marc and I get so busy following the next big thing that we forget to pause and appreciate the things we have, and the things we have experienced, learned and achieved along the way. And the most tragic part of this is that our happiness takes a big hit.
As humans, when we are not grateful for what we have, we cannot be happy.
This is not just some self-improvement cliché either. It has been scientifically proven. For example, researchers in many positive psychology studies (like this one) divided the study participants into two groups and instructed a group of study participants to reflect on the little things they are grateful for at the end of each day, while another group does just their normal routines. Then both groups are interviewed after several weeks, and it becomes clear that the first group has had significantly greater life satisfaction than the second group during that time period.
Why is this happening?
The simplest explanation is to force ourselves to focus on thoughts and actions related to gratitude, regardless of circumstances, helping our brains develop positive emotions. In a remarkable study, the researchers asked the participants to smile with vigor while thinking of something specific they are grateful for. They found that this consistently stimulated mental activity associated with positive emotions and emotions.
The most important part for most of us (severe depression and other related mental illnesses anyway) is pretty clear: when we force ourselves to be grateful by making gratitude part of our daily routines, we actually feel much happier.
In the end, the secret to being grateful is no secret. You choose to be grateful. Then you do it again and again. If you forget, start again.
However, there are three specific gratitude strategies that Marc and I often cover with our students and coaching clients. We have literally seen these strategies work wonders for people over the past decade (and we practice them ourselves too). I encourage you to implement them gradually, one by one, in your life. And if you need further help, we are here.
first Practice a private, gratitude ritual for the evening.
Here is a super simple, five minute gratitude ritual:
Every night before you go to bed, write down three things that went well during the day and their causes. Just give a brief, causal explanation for each good thing.
That's it. We spend tens of thousands of dollars on expensive electronics, large homes, stylish cars and lavish vacations in the hope of a lift. This is a simple, free option, and it works.
If you begin this ritual tonight you may be looking back on today many years from now, like the day your whole life changed.
2nd Practice giving thanks in public.
Although gratitude comes from within, the public expression of gratitude is also important. In his best-selling book, "Authentic Happiness," well-known positive psychologist Martin Seligman gives some practical suggestions on how to do this. He recommends that we practice rituals to express gratitude in letters to friends, family, colleagues, and other people we interact with in our community.
Marc and I have implemented this gratitude strategy in our own lives by ritualizing it into our morning routine. We write a short email, text message or letter each morning to a specific person, grateful and thank them for what they do that makes our lives a little brighter. (Marc and I build attentive gratitude rituals with our students in the module "Happiness and Positive Living" in Getting Back to Happy.)
3. Practice reflecting on the little things you are grateful for.
It's fairly easy to remember to be grateful for the big and obvious things that are happening – a new addition to the family, a good marketing job, a significant business breakthrough, etc. But the happiest people also find ways to thank for the little things too. Think about these perspective shifting points from an article Marc wrote a while back:
- You're alive.
- You didn't sleep hungry last night.
- You didn't sleep outside.  You chose what clothes to wear this morning.
- You have not spent a minute in fear of your life.
- You know someone who loves you.
- You have access to clean drinking water.
- You have access to medical care.
- You have access to the Internet.
- You can read.
Be honest: when was the last time you were grateful that you were just living or sleeping with a full stomach? Think more specifically about all the little things you experience – the smell of a homemade meal, hear your favorite song when it randomly comes on the radio, watch a fantastic sunset, etc.
Be attentive and be grateful.
The richest man is really not the one who has the most, but the one who needs less. Wealth is a way of thinking. Want less and appreciate more today. And remember that the best time to focus on being grateful is when you don't feel it. Because that's when you do it can make the biggest difference. (Marc and I discuss this further in the "Happiness" chapter on 1,000 small things that happy, successful people do differently.)
As for me, I post this article with a quick note on thanks to YOU:
Thank you for reading this article and other articles at marcandangel.com.
Thank you for being a part of our society.
Marc and I are really grateful YOU are here with us. 🙂
It's your turn …
Right now I would love for you to reflect on # 3 above …
What is something that you are really grateful for, which you sometimes forget that appreciate?
Do you have any other thoughts on gratitude to share? We would love to hear from you.
Leave a reply below.
Our next annual Think Better, Live Better conference takes place February 8-9, 2020 in San Diego. Ten discounted early bird tickets are still available today (while they last).