Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Five Ways Gratitude Will Change Your Life

I have just run across a great post on a blog that is new to me: Kevin's Remarkable Learning Blog. Since gratitude is a perfect topic for Thanksgiving, I am re-printing his complete post here:

" 'Thank you'

Saying 'thank you' is one of the lessons most of us learn at a young age. It's something we teach to our children too. We all know that gratitude is important, which is why in many parts of the world we have a day called Thanksgiving to remind us to be thankful.

"It is unfortunate in many ways that we have such a day. Yes, it may remind us on that day to be thankful, grateful and appreciative - but the fact is that we will benefit greatly if we do it with much more regularity. I was thinking daily, or even hourly.

"The behavior of being grateful goes beyond saying 'thank you,' though that is one of the actions that should be included. When I speak of the behavior of gratitude I mean consciously and regularly looking for and acknowledging the things you are thankful for or appreciate. Some people choose to keep a gratitude journal, some make occasional lists and some mentally say thank you as things happen.

"The purpose of this article is not to suggest or advocate for any particular method, but rather to implore you to be grateful; for when you are, your life will be drastically altered for the better.

"Before I share these five ways with you let me make one thing very clear: the reasons to be grateful are many, but do not include a quid pro quo of 'If I'm grateful, I'll get these benefits.' Rather, choose to be grateful, do the things that heighten you appreciation of the world around you and your circumstances, and rest assured these benefits will flow to you.

"What we think about expands. This is the foundational principle for the other four ways that follow. Would you like more of the things you are grateful for in your life? When you think on those things and are grateful for their presence, you are already taking the first step towards expanding them in your life!

"Reduce your stress. We add much stress to our lives by the things we think about, wonder about and worry about. If you are thinking appreciative, grateful thoughts there is less room for the rest. When you are grateful for what you have, you will reduce your stress.

"Change your focus. Being grateful in these ways changes your focus by definition. Our minds are built to literally allow us to see the things we are looking for. When you approach life from the perspective of thankfulness, your mind will literally notice more examples of things to be thankful for, and even help you do a better job of seeing the positive in any situation.

"Improve your relationships. Do this exercise with me. Think of a person that is a challenge in your life - a person that makes something difficult for you; someone that frustrates you or you argue with frequently. Write that person's name at the top of a piece of paper and write down five admirable things about that person - five skills, abilities or characteristics about that person that you can appreciate. Once you have done that, commit to thinking about those attributes or characteristics the next time you are around or working with that person. As you think of those things you appreciate, even when you are frustrated or in disagreement, your thinking about the person and your attitude will change. By taking this step of gratitude and appreciation you are taking a huge step towards improving your relationship.

"Improve your self image. The more you think about the good things in your life, and the more you notice and observe what is working well in your life, the better you will feel about yourself! And the even better news is that as your self image improves your focus and your relationships will continue to improve and your stress will, everything else being equal, continue to drop.

"The benefits of gratitude go far beyond doing something because it's the 'right thing' to do. When you begin to notice and take inventory of all of the things you are thankful for, you recognize that even though your life may have challenges and you might be facing obstacles, you can build your future success on the blessings around you right now.

"Potential Pointer: Everyone has a huge number of things, people and circumstances for which to be thankful. When you invest the time and focus to notice and acknowledge these things, you create space and energy to draw even more positive experiences and circumstances into your life."

I know that it can be tough to be happy, be thankful or even just a little cheerful when going through an emotionally-difficult experience like divorce. If you are having a difficult time, try some of the techniques mentioned here and see if they will help (and then let us know about your experiences). I'm betting they will, if you give yourself some time to try out the ideas. Once you commit to the approach and follow the plan for a while, I believe you will be grateful to Kevin for his thoughtful approach. Thanks, Kevin.

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