With Thanksgiving this week, we’re reminded to count our blessings and give thanks with our loved ones. But what if we practiced gratitude on a daily basis and not just on Thanksgiving? What would happen? People would probably have better self-esteem, and they would lead happier, healthier lives. Now, I’m not saying that having gratitude solves all problems, but it can certainly help. Here’s why:
Our brains are wired to find problems because that’s what protects us. We’re experts at finding everything that is going wrong so that we can try and fix them. But oftentimes the “problems” we have are things we don’t have control over anyway. The traffic is terrible. We have to do this or that, and there’s always something getting in the way. When things are going right, we take them for granted and don’t even see how wonderful they are. As a result, we don’t feel satisfied with our lives. Practicing gratitude lets us see things that are going right for us. We start to realize that we have more than we thought we had, and we can feel more fulfilled.
There are so many things you have that money can’t buy. You can train yourself to start looking for those things and appreciate them. Tell your friends, colleagues, and loved ones how much they matter to you. Start a gratitude journal and write down a few things every day. Like Marie Kondo says, notice the things that “spark joy” for you. You’ll find that even the small things you’re grateful for actually do make a difference. This is supported by research from scientists such as Dr. Robert Emmons that shows that gratitude, among many other things, helps in improving mood, reducing stress, and building resilience.
Another part of Marie Kondo’s method for tidying up is thanking an item for its role in your life before discarding it. Though this may seem silly, this act of gratitude can actually help with letting go of things you no longer need. It can be as simple as thanking a shirt you never wore for teaching you that you don’t like that style after all. Gratitude lessens the guilt of parting with something you don’t need by recognizing its value at a previous point in your life. This can not only help with de-cluttering material things around your home but also de-cluttering non-physical things in your life like toxic relationships and unhealthy habits. Once you’re able to let go of that part that no longer serves you in the present time, you can move forward much more easily toward living the life you want. Expressing gratitude allows you to close that chapter of your life and move on to the next.
Being grateful for all things, whether big or small, good or bad, is hard to do because that’s not how many of us naturally are. But with a daily practice of appreciating even the small things in your life, you’ll gradually train yourself to shift your perspective. Even if you look at the bad things that have happened in your life with the right lens, you can see the value in the lessons you have learned or are still learning. At the very least, you’ve discovered what you don’t like. The point of recognizing the good parts of your life is to see that you’re actually doing alright, and you can always work toward creating a better life for yourself. Try and practice gratitude daily and see what happens. Happy Thanksgiving!