Radiance & Resonance
Information and Advice for Improving your Life and Relationships
Gratitude: A Simple Answer to Happiness
-Stephanie Mustopich, MA, MHP, LMFT
Research shows that the benefits of gratitude are endless. People who regularly take time to notice and reflect on things they are thankful for exhibit a more positive mood, sleep better, express more empathy and even have better health. Robert Emmons, author of Thanks!: How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier, shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal—and writing brief reflections can contribute to your overall health and wellness.
Gratitude can come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Sure, it’s each to be grateful when you receive a promotion at work or have a near miss with a health crisis, but gratitude can also be appreciating the sunrise, a smile from a loved one, or even getting ice cream.
So why, is such a simple practice, so hard? Well, to consider gratitude we often have to be mindful of moments. A hundred thousand moments happen to us every day. How many do we take time to think about, like actually think about? When’s the last time you went for a drive and were thoughtful about how you were driving? Did you pay attention to your mirrors? Did you get distracted by a song or podcast? Were you talking on the phone? How many of those moments went by with you not even noticing? It’s hard to be grateful for things when we aren’t mindful of moments.
Here are a few keys I’ve discovered that help start a gratitude practice and being more mindful:
Set an Intention:
Write out what your hoping to accomplish. “I will write 3 things I’m grateful for every day.” Make a special time for it, like with your first cup of coffee or after you put the kids to bed. Tell your friends and family about your practice so they can check in and support you on your journey.
While the concept of mindfulness, paying attention to the present moment, is easy, doing it, is hard. In this age of technology and expectations around multitasking, it’s hard to re-wire our brain to complete tasks fully before going on to the next. However, the more we multi-task, the more we try to do all the things, the more likely we will fail. Maybe not fully, but not nearly as well as if we fully engaged in one activity before moving on to the next. Implement a mindfulness practice where you give your brain a chance to resent and refocus. Mindfully do the dishes, or drive a car or take a walk.
“I’m thankful for my family and kids and friends.” Sure, super easy to say, I met my goal, why doesn’t my gratitude practice seem like it’s making a difference? Well, because you didn’t dig deep. You didn’t reflect on what those people mean to you. You just said what you thought you should say or what makes the most sense. Be thoughtful. Describe why you are grateful. Use your mindfulness practice here to notice special moments with your loved ones so you can have a meaningful response and reflection.
Make Gratitude Achievable
Any new routine is hard to begin, even for the most motivated of people. Don’t set goals that are so lofty that you can’t be consistent and then find yourself failing. Pay attention to your body and when is a good time to have this practice. Maybe you need to start with only one thing your grateful for each day until you get used to doing it. There’s no right or wrong way to be grateful, but with any new routine, be kind to yourself so you can achieve mastery.
Find Gratitude in your Challenges
Often, we grow the most as humans through the hard stuff. If we can take time to reflect on how going through challenges benefits us in the long run, it can make growing a little less painful. Easier said that done, right? Of course. Gratitude isn’t always easy; in fact, it can be really, really hard. But if we constantly focus on what’s not going well, how things are challenges, that we are only hitting road blocks, it doesn’t leave a lot of space for the good stuff. Use gratitude as a way to shift your thinking and move forward instead of staying stuck.
Allow for Mistakes
It’s really easy to forget a day of mindfulness or gratitude, especially at first. Don’t shame your blame yourself for missing a day. Gently remind yourself of your intention, and refocus back to your goal. The important part here is in the restarting. If you stick with it long enough, it will become an easy part of your daily routine.
No matter who you are, the health benefits of gratitude are undeniable. There are so many ways to make gratitude a part of your daily life. Take the first step today, find a way that works for your and your life.
The present is now. Take in those special moments. Remember them.