Are you facing a bad patch in life and everything seems to be going wrong for you – from your marriage to the kids to your work, nothing seems to be what you had hoped for?
Or perhaps you often find yourself comparing with others and wonder why they always seem to have it better than you.
Indeed, it’s hard to feel thankful when it looks like there’s nothing in life you can express gratitude for. But the truth is, there is always something we can be thankful for, if we would just stop looking at the wrong places.
Why Gratitude is Important
Many research studies, including those by renowned psychologists Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough found that people who adopt an attitude of gratitude enjoy better health and wellbeing, including greater sense of joy and happiness, feel more optimistic about life, have stronger immune system, eat more healthily and exercise more regularly. They also have better mental focus, higher levels of energy and make more progress towards important personal goals.
So for your own health and wellbeing, choose to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving. Here are some simple ways to get you started on cultivating a heart of gratitude:
1. Write it down
At the end of your day, take time to note down some things you can be thankful. Many people suggest having a gratitude journal. In my family, I use the ‘Gratitude Jar’, a practice I started this year which I also involve my son. Before his bedtime, we’ll sit together at the dining table and I’ll ask him to name at least one thing that he is thankful for that day. I’ll then help him to write it on a piece of paper, fold it up and drop it into the Gratitude Jar. I do the same too. When New Year’s Eve comes, we’ll sit together and read all the notes we had written for 2014 and give thanks for the blessings we received. It’s going to be an awesome way to wrap up the year!
2. Talk about it
Besides writing it down, find opportunities to talk about the things you are grateful for, such as at family meal times (which you can it turn into a family routine). You can even ask everyone to thank another family member for something he or she has done. Or you could do it at gatherings with friends – it will help to set a positive atmosphere and make the interactions more meaningful.
3. Send notes of thanks
Caught up with our busy life, we don’t say “thank you” enough to people who matter to us. Today, spend a few minutes to express appreciation through a card or letter for people who care about you, support you or have helped you in some ways. You could even include a small little gift as an added surprise.
4. Face setbacks with positivity
Setbacks are a part of life. While it’s not something we’d wish for, we also know that the challenges of life can teach us many precious lessons.
Two years ago, I attempted to start my first online business and asked a friend to be my partner. In the end she betrayed my trust and walked away with the business. I was devastated. But on hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise. If not what had happened, I probably won’t be doing what I am doing now – supporting moms in the pursuit of their dreams and empowering them to transit to a work-at-home lifestyle.
While it is not easy, see the valleys of life as a gift; choose to focus on the positive aspects of it. Ask God (or the Universe) to show you lessons to be learnt and how you can emerge stronger and a better person through it.
5. Commit to it
Developing a new habit takes time and effort. The start of it could be a challenge and it’s natural to feel some resistance. Don’t beat yourself up if you falter, pick yourself up and go on. Think of ways to make the process fun and meaningful and you’ll naturally be more motivated to fulfill your goal.
When we learn to approach life and interact with people with a heart of gratitude, we will naturally feel more contented and experience greater joy. But gratitude is a choice, a decision about how we choose to feel regardless of the circumstances.
I’ll end with a quote by Oprah Winfrey,
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.”
What is one thing you will commit to doing this week to develop a heart of gratitude and welcome more joy into your life?