When I was growing up I would always hear the familiar words from the adults in my life to
“Count your blessings” and “Be grateful for what you have.” In our younger years, these
reminders to be grateful from those older and wiser sometimes get overshadowed by the “whoa is me” victim mentality of all of the obstacles in our life and everything we don’t have.
Looking back I know I had a hard time focusing on being grateful for my baby blue rusted
Volkswagen station wagon when my best friend Rhonda was driving around in her black shiny Trans Am with the T-tops. Feeling “grateful” and “counting my blessings” wasn’t always in the forefront of my mind.
It is easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we don’t have instead of being appreciative for all of the abundances that we do have. As we get older and our perspective broadens, we grow into understanding the value of gratitude, noticing simple pleasures and being aware of all that we have been given. It is almost like a switch that comes on when we reach a certain age or phase of our life.
However, it is important that these habits start at a younger age in order to build a strong
foundation and a genuine awareness of being grateful. Small habits that with consistent
awareness and practice will successfully compound over time.
Not only is practicing gratitude an important life long habit, research shows that gratitude helps us be happier and therefore live longer. This statistic alone is an important reason to practice being grateful. We all want to live happier and longer lives, right?
Recent studies show that practicing gratitude can increase happiness levels by 25%. This is
significant, among other things, because just as there’s a certain weight that feels natural to
your body, your basic level of happiness is set at a predetermined point. If something bad
happens to you during the day, your happiness can drop momentarily, but then it returns to its natural set-point. Likewise, if you encounter something super positive throughout your day, your level of happiness rises, and then it returns once again to your “happiness set-point.” A practice of gratitude raises your “happiness set-point” which in turn makes you way more enjoyable to be around!
Additionally research has proven that happier people live an average of 10 years longer than
pessimistic, “victim” people and have 77% lower risk of heart disease. Another great reason to create an intentional gratitude practice in your life.
In this busy and distracted world where we are now losing our attention every 8 seconds, we
need consistency and simplicity. Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be time consuming or
overwhelming but it needs to come authentically from the heart and it can easily be
implemented in your life everyday.
3 simple habits to develop gratitude
1. Start a gratitude journal- Taking time to reflect and write out what you are grateful for
in a journal has proven to be one of the most impactful ways to get in the thankful habit.
Put your gratitude journal by your bed so when you wake every morning you can start
your day listing 3 specific things you are grateful for. Be more specific than, “I am
grateful for my family.” For example, “I am grateful for all of my siblings and their children
who came over last night for dinner and all of the funny stories we told about our
summer vacations.” If mornings aren’t your thing, when you wind down at night, write 3
specific blessings before you go to bed. At the end of every month, quarter or year, go
back and review your gratitude journal. It warms your heart and puts your life into
2. Complaining fast- Try for 1 week to institute a “complaining” fast. When you catch
yourself complaining, stop and switch your complaints to gratitude statements. Creating
awareness in your day to day conversations of how much you complain will start a habit
of being grateful. In fact, if you take the 1 week challenge and continue to have
awareness around your complaining for another 53 days you have reached 60 days of
“complaining awareness.” (Scientific research from Phillippa Lally ,a health psychology
researcher at University College London concluded that it now takes 60 days to form a
concrete habit.) Replace the complaining statements for 60 days with gratitude
statements and you have a new engrained positive habit in your life.
3. Small personal deposits with someone you care about- A simple “thinking of you”
text, a thank you card or a random act of kindness is easy to do but as we get into the
reactiveness of our day, these impactful deposits may get forgotten. Set an intention
everyday to share with one specific person a meaningful personal touch or a genuine
reach to them. When you wake up, think of one person in your life that you could make a
small deposit to. This doesn’t need to be something big or time consuming, but an
authentic reach to the person you care about. Identifying who that person is early in your
day will allow you to put intention behind it and avoid getting side tracked. Over time
these personal deposits will cause a ripple effect of happiness into the universe.
Starting a habit of gratitude is a choice. Just like any choice, we have the option to do it or not to do it. What is easy to do is also easy not to do until we understand the “why” behind the choice. Understanding that a strong habit of intentional gratitude everyday can lead to a longer, healthier and happier life is enough of a “why” in my book! How about you?