More joy. More peace. More hope. More connection.
Safe to say we all want them. How do we get them?
Building joy and peace in life, comfort in our own skin, being able to live according to our values is largely dependent on our habits of responding to ourselves, others, and situations. Like putting pennies in a bank, the choices we make moment to moment add up. Our habits set the tone for our lives. We can build habits that infuse our lives with peace and a deeper sense of connection with ourselves and others. We can also build habits that get us farther from these things. Just like a pattern of spending more pennies than we have leads to debt and heaps of other problems, so does a pattern of responding ineffectively to life"s challenges. Lots of things happen in life that are outside of our control; overwhelming, painful, unfair things. Things we did not choose and do not like. Even in excruciating moments, we have a choice in how we respond. Our responses can either increase and prolong the misery, or help us get on the road towards feeling better.
So what does gratitude have to do with this?
Gratitude is essential to becoming increasingly able to respond well; responding in ways that make things better instead of worse.
In a brief survey of the literature, science seems overwhelmingly to support gratitude"s potential for improving every area of our lives like water filling in the holes in a sponge, or like a rising tide lifting all boats, or like how going to kickboxing classes improves your energy, your fitness, AND your confidence. Research indicates gratitude has an immense ability to increase positive emotions, which is key in building emotional heartiness and resilience. Emotional heartiness and resilience are also needed for decreasing overall misery and increasing the ability to live in line with our values even in the face of severe disappointment and pain. Emotional heartiness and resilience are absolutely required for responding effectively, in ways that make things better, whatever the situation. Regular, intentional practice of gratitude has the potential to make us able to do this. By practicing gratitude, we"re likely to feel more confident in our ability to handle life"s challenges well, and to feel better generally because of this.
Gratitude also increases one"s ability to be mindful, or more aware, in the present moment. Practicing gratitude requires mindfulness, which is basically the ability to control what we pay attention to and for how long. As we are focusing on what we are grateful for in the moment, new things come to our attention to be grateful for. These discoveries turn up the volume on our sense of wellbeing and happiness, which increases gratitude, and so on.
One article sums up an amazing amount of gratitude info, benefits, and the science behind it: The 31 Benefits of Gratitude You Didn"t Know About: How Gratitude Can Change Your Life" by Amit Amin
Check it out his findings:
Practicing/focusing on gratitude improves:
Happiness we"re more focused on the positive stuff and what we do have.
Health we sleep better; have more energy; live longer; have healthier habits (we tend to go for the junk food and binge watching Netflix when our reserves are down); have less negative physical symptoms; exercise more.
Career/Job we are more effective managers, better at networking and more likely to do network; better at making decisions; and have increased productivity.
Emotional heartiness/Resilience we build up positive emotions; are better able to weather the storms of emotional pain; have increased contentment/diminished envy; and tend to be more relaxed.
Developing our personality in happiness-increasing ways we gain increased optimism; tend to be less materialistic; have more self-esteem; are less self-centered we"re focused outward rather than on feeling we are not enough, or otherwise consumed by our own lack; and tend to be more spiritual, which connects with finding meaning and purpose in life.
Socially we have increased ability to be present to others; people like us more when we"re focused less on ourselves and more on others, so we tend to have more friends; we tend to be friendlier; have better relationships/marriages; have and show more respect for others; have more friends and deeper relationships/connection.
Inspiring, right? By increasing our practice of gratitude, we can potentially improve every area of our lives.
How do we start? Building new habits and establishing new patterns is hard work. It"s clear we have to build habits when things are going relatively well to be able to utilize them when things are not going relatively well. It"s a lot tougher to think clearly and make wise choices when we"re experiencing anxiety, stress, anger and depression. Think about someone training for a marathon if they wait until race day to start running, will they make it?
Nope. We"ve got to start with small steps way before race day comes and add distance as we get stronger and build endurance. Same thing with building new patterns into our lives we"ve got to start small and gradually build up as we have the skills and endurance to handle the bigger things. We"ve got to want it, and figure out ways to re-motivate ourselves on days we don"t feel like it, which will surely come.
Here are some ideas for infusing more gratitude into our lives.
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