Quite frequently gratitude is touted as the magic elixir, the invisible force field that will keep all of life's ills away. There's an entire industry built on — "If you were more grateful, you wouldn't be poor!" (By the way, the same goes for being positive.) But since I've met a number of people who have been quite wealthy and not at all grateful or who have had very comfortable lives and been quite negative, I find those absolute maxims don't hold true.
However, I do find that practicing gratitude can make your life less stressful and much happier. Not because it's some incantation to ward off the baddies; but because it changes how you view the world, how you view your own life and how you view your place within the greater framework around you. Not to mention it brings a level of perspective to your successes and your foibles!
So for help in developing your own "attitude of gratitude" you might try some of the following…
First there is nothing like journaling to help you sort through your thoughts, get rid of mental clutter and become your own best friend. However, please note that writing endless pages of despairing words isn't going to get you closer to a heightened sense of gratitude. So use your writing time to focus on what you have in your life to be grateful about. And be aware of this little nugget — gratitude requires that you take a higher view of yourself and your situation — which is where the self-growth comes from when practicing it. Just a page a day or a few paragraphs will help you feel collected and centered. It's truly amazing how it works!
Next express your gratitude to others. Seems obvious, but we often have a habit of forgetting to do this. Of course, you have to start seeing the best of other people — which can be hard to do when we're stressed, feeling like Life's against us or when we have had a number of disappointments. But few people are all good or bad and seeing them in all their three-dimensional glory — the good in the bad and the bad in the good — can reveal a few things not just about them, but about ourselves too.
After you've expressed your gratitude to everyone else, go take a walk and look at yourself in the bathroom mirror and — express some gratitude to yourself! Some times we beat ourselves up and that daily battering takes a toll year after year. In fact, we get so used to it, that we forget how to treat ourself as one of our best friends. We'll say mental things to ourself that we would never dare utter to someone else. So, start looking at what your saying to yourself in the privacy of your own head, begin seeing the good in yourself and commence giving yourself some positive feedback.
Express your gratitude to nature, Life or whatever all-encompassing energy you believe in. While you may not believe in a higher power, look around you and see that there is a great deal to be grateful for from nature. So whatever your religious or spiritual bent, there are aspects of life and the world you don't control and being grateful for the good around you puts you in touch with just how lucky you are to have fresh water, fresh air and some sunshine.
Look for the good news in the world. Watching the evening news, one is led to believe that it's a scary world full made up of one dreary experience after the next. Murder, mayhem, fire, flood and then the weather with an uplifting story about a cat being saved, an elderly person who brings joy to others or a child who does some selfless act just before the sign-off. As if that one 20-second story removes all the dreariness of the previous thirty minutes. Beyond natural disasters, politics, all the isms and the endless crime reports — there is good news — find it and share it with others.
And finally — smile! Practice smiling when you're sitting at a red light or in line at the grocery store. Look around you when your on the bus or walking down the street. Notice all those dour, scowling people? Don't be one of them. Practice smiling and breathing ala Thich Nhat Hanh. And maybe even get off the phone and focus on the amazing world around you and the people you care about who populate it.
And when you've done all that, you may find that you're more centered, calmer, focused, enjoying life more and have a greater sense of empathy. And interestingly, you will also discover that you have more self-discipline and a higher perspective on your life. It's not magic, just bringing yourself and the world into greater focus and clarity.