How Practicing Gratitude Led Me to Being (Permanently) Grateful
We are always searching for the next best thing. It could be upgrading to the next iPhone or Android, finding new ways to impress the boss, or even researching the next fad diet, etc.
But how often do you stop and look at your surroundings and say to yourself, “Gee, I am so fortunate for the life that I have”, or, “I’m truly grateful for the amazing people in my life”? That’s what I thought.
Gratitude is a part of the journey towards happiness. A few months ago I set a goal for myself to become truly grateful for everything and everybody in my life.
Before deciding on this goal, I had read Oprah’s book, What I Know For Sure. In this book, Oprah shares with her readers the important moments and the lessons she learned throughout her lifetime. She also emphasized how gratitude helped shape her life for the better. It was quite the enjoyable read; I encourage you to pick up a copy if you haven’t already done so.
After finishing the book, I realized that gratitude was crucial to a positive and fulfilled life. But how was I going to achieve this goal?
The first step was to acquire a gratitude journal. Oh man! Now you’re thinking “great! I have to do work for this?” Yes! Yes you do, because everything you work towards usually involves some sort of an effort.
Once I received my gratitude journal I was so excited! Ecstatic even! I thought; this will be the book that changes my life. But when it came to the actual writing, I just stared at the paper and continued to stare a little bit longer. Why was this so difficult? I could write that I’m grateful for my friends, family, education, etc., but was this going to be the same things that I wrote down every day?
After sitting there and not a single word written down, I made my life easier and decided to go with simplicity. I wrote down the things I was grateful for just for that day, such as having a good cup of coffee or a great phone conversation. I wrote five things I was grateful for, dated it, and shut the book. Then I promised myself to return to it the next day where I would write five more things.
I wrote in the gratitude journal each night and I felt grateful after writing. This continued on for a couple of months but it wasn’t producing any long-term effects. The feeling of gratitude would only last me from the time I was writing in the journal to when I fell asleep that very same night. When I woke up the next day, I was feeling the same old way I always felt, just going about my ordinary day.
At times I would become frustrated with myself because I was not experiencing the long-term gratitude feeling that Oprah was raving about. Am I zombie? Maybe I’m too spoiled of a human? I began to really reflect on the things I was writing down.
Turns out that this frustration was all part of the process. I had become so frustrated by the lack of long-term results that I started writing in the journal every other day rather than daily. I couldn’t figure out what I was doing wrong. I sat and thought for a bit about why this wasn’t working and what I could do to improve the situation. I decided I needed to take on a new approach to this problem.
I then began to authentically reflect on the things that I wrote down. I began to look at the little moments that I wrote about and why they made my day a little bit easier, better, or happier. It is not that I wasn’t grateful for that cup of coffee; it’s just that I wasn’t appreciating what I was writing down as I was writing it down.
I began to write daily again, but this time I would take a moment to acknowledge and appreciate whatever it was that made my day a tiny bit better. For example, one morning I was walking to work and the weather was absolutely gorgeous. The sun was shining through the leaves so much that I felt like I was walking into the sunrise. When I wrote about this moment later on in my gratitude journal, I briefly thought about how enjoyable that moment was for me and smiled.
Eventually, it all kicked in; feeling the gratitude each and every day, from the moment you wake up to falling asleep at night. Let me tell you, it is a beautiful thing.
If you decide to take this route, the journal serves as a guide to you to help you see and reflect on the little things and to truly acknowledge and appreciate those things. Those little things paint a big beautiful picture, and that big picture is your incredible life.
So be happy with what you have and be grateful for those in your life, because you could always have more, but you could also have less!
Start writing down a couple of the things you are grateful for each day, and if you continue this practice, I can promise you that you will have positive results in your life.