“Happiness doesn’t come as a result of getting something we don’t have, but rather of recognizing and appreciating what we do have.” – Frederick Koenig
Gratitude helps us appreciate all we already have. It helps us delineate our wants from our needs. It helps us takes a break from complaining and the chase of wanting something more and different. It helps us make peace with our life as it is. It just helps.
"As long as you are breathing, there is more right with you than wrong with you, no matter what is wrong.”
– Jon Kabat-Zinn
This is the perfect time to remember how incredibly fortunate we are compared to millions, no billions, of people on this planet. It helps to remember that when we want to complain.
For a quick attitude adjustment, consider:
Do you have your health? Or people and love in your life? There are many who do not. How about considering being grateful that bad did not befall you; And when it does, for protection from it being even worse. Let us appreciate those many uneventful days - when we make it home safely. Consider all those many days we have been sheltered from the storm. How about realizing and appreciating the problems we do not have.
Even when the bad does befall you, it very likely could have been worse. Composer Paul Williams calls this expandable gratitude:
“If you’re in a car wreck, you’re grateful that nobody was hurt. If they are hurt, you are grateful they didn’t die. If they die, you are grateful for the chance you had to know them. It’s an expandable gratitude. One size, fits all. Put it in your heart and use it.” [OWN, SuperSoul Sunday, 11/4/14].
OK, yeah, it’s bad. But it very likely could have been worse.
But beyond appreciating the things we are fortunate to have and the problems we do not, research has proven a long list of benefits that come from cultivating daily gratitude in your life.
Being grateful is strongly correlated with greater levels of happiness and better physical, psychological and mental health. Gratitude is an immediate elixir, providing us with relief from many of the challenges we encounter. It helps to reduce stress and improves self-esteem. It improves our relationships.
Being grateful decreases the negative emotions that hold us back, like envy, frustration and regret. It helps release anger, resentments, annoyances.
“Gratitude is a hate-changer.” – T.D. Jakes
Gratitude reduces depression. It has proven therapeutic with mental health issues and has helped in overcoming trauma.
Basically, in terms of its power to change your life, it’s damn near magic.
So powerful in fact, it actually changes our brains – all without the long list of side effects.
All it takes is an unbelievably simple shift in thinking and a regular practice. If it sounds like just another thing to add to the To-Do list, let Harvard happiness researcher Shawn Achor convince you of the incredible gratitude investment-to-return ratio.
In as little as two minutes a day, Achor found that if you practice saying three new things that you are grateful for, every day for 21-days, even that angry 84-year-old pessimist neighbor of yours can change. This is especially powerful for kids. This same practice can rewire a child who is a biological pessimist and turn them into a default optimist.
Whether in a journal or around a dinner table, a daily practice of gratitude helps us move through our days now looking for the good. That is the difference. You see the good and less of the other. It’s just a new filter through which to see the world.
It’s all-season, all-reason effective. It works in traffic. It works in the hospital. It works in divorce court. It works in a hurricane. And research has shown we can get better at this skill and make our life better in the process.
“What a wonderful life I’ve had! I only wish I’d realized it sooner.” – Sidonie Gabrielle Colette
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