Practicing gratitude will change your life – but you already sort of knew that didn’t you?
Everyone has this inkling in the back of their heads that being thankful for your fantastic life probably holds some sort of key to increasing your baseline happiness.
Yet we don’t every really practice it do we? We take basically every single thing in our lives for granted. Our food (how easily accessible it is, the amazing nutrition it provides and the fantastic taste), our water (same as food), our warm homes, balanced climate (for the most part), freedom to do what we want, amenities, clothes, transport, our ability to see, hear, touch, taste, smell and even just having all of our bloody limbs.
There are countless things to be thankful for every single day – the fact that you woke up today is an absolute privilege that we just brush off as normal. We never take the time to actually think about how blessed we are from the moment we wake up, til the moment we hit the sack.
What is gratitude?
There has never been a better time in history to be a human being and we need to start being a lot more aware of that fact. Imagine how people from the past – even just the 1800’s – would react to today’s world. Clean water, sustainable cures for diseases, electricity in every home, working sewage systems, the list goes on.
Their heads would absolutely explode. Anyway, even all of that isn’t the point really; gratitude boils down to being intrinsically grateful. This means you are thankful and content with you. You are thankful for your own hard work, what is has brought to you and your life in general.
You created all of this and that deserves gratitude to yourself. Happiness comes when you are truly grateful and content in the present moment. None of this “I’ll be happy when I get this” or “I could be happy if I had only done that“. It doesn’t work like that.
Practicing gratitude simply means, give thanks to yourself first and your environment after. But always be thankful for both, no matter what the situation is.
Think back to a time when your current life was your dream life. This is one I find always gets people out of their blinkered pursuit of the future and helps them to realise that they are living a life that was once only a dream to them.
Remember when you were a kid and you wanted to drive a car, be super strong like your dad or basically do any sort of adult activity ever? Well guess what? You are living your childhood dream! You just don’t realise because you see your life every day. As the famous quote from C. S. Lewis says; “Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”.
You just need to look back a bit more to realise how unbelievably far you’ve come – just don’t dwell there otherwise you’ll never come back to the present.
Think of gratitude as a bit of modern day stoicism.
Benefits of practicing gratitude
The benefits of practicing gratitude stretch far beyond the five listed below but these will certainly be enough to get you on your way.
Remember, there is nothing more inevtiable than the passing of time. If something bad happens, just remember that a week, month, year will pass and you’ll forget all about it. If something isn’t going to bother you in a year, why should it bother you now?
Practicing gratitude will help you to stop sweating the small stuff and look at the bigger picture. Sometimes, zooming out to see our situation from a different perspective is just what we need.
Practicing gratitude on the daily will help you develop a deep appreciation for your friends and family. You will want to spend more time present with them and will want to make the most of their company while you still can.
Gratitude will teach you this lesson before it’s too late and honing these feelings of gratitude can help strengthen bonds, it makes you a better listener, a more attentive partner and an all round good egg.
Calms you down
This is kind of linked to what I said above about the passing of time and zooming out on a situation. Being grateful in every situation no matter what it may be, will help you to stay calm in even the most intense, stressful times.
Practicing gratitude isn’t just about being thankful for the great stuff going on in your life. It is also about being thankful for the hardship – the tests that you have to endure throughout life to make you a better human being.
Framing these perceived negatives into positive situations creates many more positive outcomes and will serve you well throughout your life. For more advice on framing negatives as positives, look into Jocko Willink’s ‘good’ mindset.
You love yourself
When you start being thankful for your gifts and realise just how lucky and brilliant you are, you will come to love yourself, your abilities and every little thing you wouldn’t notice before.
You will want to take care of yourself and have far more self-respect. I find that this usually leads to greater pride, with people taking action on their fitness goals, career aspirations or simply just treating themselves a little bit.
I know it’s a bit cringey but self-love is a real winner and if you can master the art of loving yourself then it will lead to so many great changes in your life.
This is definitely my favourite benefit that I noticed since starting practicing gratitude. Your overall positivity will soar. How can it not, when you are saying thank you for pretty much every single thing in your life?
I, and many others, have found that this overall increase in positivity attracts lots of great people to you. This doesn’t mean in a romantic way – but when you are putting so much positivity out into the world, you tend to have that reciprocated by others who share the same beliefs as you.
You become magnetic in a sense – people want to spend more time with you because you’re far more interesting and fun to be around. You are the sum of the 6 people you spend most of your time with. Practicing gratitude and increasing your positivity ensures that those 6 are the right kind of people – people that are going to propel you to achieve your goals.
Better sleep & energy
This is something I noticed almost instantly when I started practicing gratitude. Your sleep quality and thus energy levels, will absolutely skyrocket.
When you start making gratitude part of your daily routine, you will experience a hell of a lot less ‘mental chatter’ at night – that stuff that keeps you awake for hours.
This is because you won’t be stressing nearly as much as you were before. You’re not rushing through life with blinkers on, always thinking about the next thing, you’re simply grateful for how good things are and this will genuinely help you to catch some top notch shut eye.
Gratitude starter pack
Some of this advice may seem like really cliche bollocks BUT they do hold value. How often do we eschew the fundamental cliche advice in order to try far more complex solutions just because they’re different?
Basically all the time isn’t it? The basic, cliche advice is pretty much always spot on – a balanced diet, 45 minutes of exercise a day, fresh air, meditation, whatever it is, it’s pretty much always right. So trust me on this one. If you actually do these things, you’ll set yourself up for success, no doubt about it.
A journal is how I started on the road to practicing gratitude consistently. It’s not any special type of journal, any old book will do. But every morning and night, write down 3 things you’re grateful for at that exact point.
It can be literally anything you want!
I will often put down things that have manifested themselves as a result of my hard work to encourage more of the same, I also often put down things such as a strong, supportive ‘inner circle’, my privileges, my missus, even if I hit a PR in the gym that day – anything goes.
This creates such a positive mindset and helps you to realise just how much you’ve got going for you in your life. Try the journal first and then make your way onto the next few points when you feel ready. You’ll be practicing gratitude consistently no time.
Spend time with your family & friends
The biggest cliche of them all!
We all claim we spend time with the fam and friends but how much time do we really spend with them? My guess is not very much.
When we get together with our mates in particular, we will all sit round and gawp at our phones, messaging others and tweeting about how much of a great time we’re having, instead of actually being present with our buds.
Then our families…we’re running out of time to spend with them. We know this deep down but ignore it. Guess what? There’s going to come a point where your entire family is dead. A wee bit morbid but it’s true.
Make time to do things with your parents (if they haven’t popped their clogs yet), siblings, cousins, whatever – I know you can’t choose your family but you can sure as hell spend more quality time with them.
If you’re lucky enough to still have grandparents, go and see them, listen to them and actually get to know them. These people have lived through wars, lived through so many decades and have countless stories and advice to give, yet we just see them as lovely old cuddly people. They’re so much more, so dedicate a little bit of time to them and be grateful for their mere existence. And if they’re already 6 feet under, ask your parents about them, they probably led lives that were a million times more interesting than you or I.
Say thank you
This can be in the conventional sense of saying thank you whenever someone does anything for you but I also find simply saying thank you when I wake up and then about 50 more times in the morning creates a really positive outlook on the day.
If you don’t fancy saying thank you a load of times, simply say it when you wake up and say it when you hop out of bed. Being thankful for waking up and having another day to live is about as basic as it gets, but isn’t that the best thing to be thankful for?
And if you can’t even do that, you must say thank you to anyone who does anything for you. Someone lets you cross the road? Thank you. Someone gives you some directions? Thank you. Someone mugs you and leaves you for dead? Why THANK YOU. In all seriousness though, even if you can’t be thankful to yourself, making someone feel valued by thanking them and acknowledging them could make their day – spread the positive vibes dudes and dudettes.
Once I started doing mental checks, my mind was low-key blown into a million tiny pieces.
Every time you do something, try and note whether you take it for granted because you do it every day. I started noticing every time I walked on a soft carpet, put a heater on, used a bloody slow cooker, got on a cross country train, used the map on my phone, walked down the street without being mauled by a tiger – the list was endless.
Once you realise basically your entire existence is made up of thousands of tiny daily miracles that people have spent hundreds of years slaving away for, you will become truly grateful for your life – something which we have all lost touch with.
It’s time to reclaim our lust for life people!
Practicing gratitude will be by far and away the best habit you pick up in 2019. You will become infinitely more aware of your privilege in life and you will undoubtedly be a more happy, well rounded person.
I know these promises sound a bit too good to be true, but they simply aren’t. Implement constant gratitude into your life and be grateful for everything in it – the rest will take care of itself.