Would you like to achieve more satisfaction with life and experience more inner peace? We all do, don’t we? To some degree or another we want to feel more inner peace and overall satisfaction, but we don’t know how to go about it. We spend hours, days, months, even years trying to figure out how to make that happen. Teacher after teacher has spoken on this subject and has revealed the key that unlocks the door to these most-sought after treasures, personal satisfaction and inner peace. The key to which I refer is Gratitude, and now we even have scientific research to back it up.
Studies conducted by Professor Robert Emmons at the University of California at Davis found a direct link between gratitude and a deep sense of satisfaction with life. He found that people who practiced gratitude through the use of journals on a regular basis exercised more regularly, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic about the upcoming week compared to those who wrote about negative or even neutral life events. In addition, participants who kept the gratitude journals were more likely to make progress towards their personal goals in life. Here are some of his conclusions based on his findings:
- People with a strong disposition toward gratitude have the capacity to be empathic and to take the perspective of others.
- Grateful individuals place less importance on material goods.
- They are less likely to judge their own and others success in terms of possessions accumulated.
- They are less envious of wealthy persons, and are more likely to share their possessions with others.
- They reported higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, attentiveness and energy.
- Participants were more likely to report having helped someone with a personal problem or having offered emotional support to another.
How can we learn to cultivate gratitude?
Focusing on what we do have versus what we don’t have seems to be the key. Reminding ourselves on a daily basis of all the things that come our way keeps us grounded in gratitude instead of want. At any given moment during the day we can stop and look for something to be thankful for. It is during these moments that we can become truly attuned to the feeling of gratitude. There are hundreds of such things in any given day if we choose to be mindful of them. They add up and build upon one another to create a more centered, content and positive perspective on life.
Professor Emmons recommends keeping a record of these moments in the form of journaling. When we feel overwhelmed and down in the dumps, we can look back at our notes and remind ourselves of just how fortunate we really are.
Also, the act of giving back compounds the effects of gratitude. Emmons found that the act of gratitude and the act of giving back reinforce each other and lead to the inevitable: more fulfilling, meaningful and happy lives.
The research conducted also showed something else that was interesting: grateful people do not deny or ignore the negative aspects of life. Gratitude does not mean turning a blind eye towards the misfortunes that befall us or the challenges we encounter. However, given the perspective that gratitude gives us, we are undoubtedly more equipped to handle life’s challenges in a more positive way.
Our attitude determines how effective we are in coping with what life throws in our direction. As we have said time and time again, our perspective on life determines our reality. If we approach things with a perspective based on the belief that life is unfair, everything that turns up will look unfair to us. On the other hand, the practice of gratitude will bring with it the optimism and drive necessary to handle disappointment and push past any obstacles that we may encounter.
How can we start to practice gratitude?
We must begin with the art of mindfulness, being totally present in the moment. This will allow us to notice all the little things that surround us, things we might take for granted if we hadn’t stopped to appreciate them.
We must acknowledge these gifts and write them down in a gratitude journal. These little things make up the fabric of our days, our months, and our years. We tend to not notice them because we are so caught up in the task of living. But as they say, we must stop and smell the roses to really appreciate their beautiful fragrance.
Consider what you have been given in life. Are you blessed with financial security? Do you have loving children, a supportive family, a nice home? Are you in good health? Do you enjoy your work? Do you have wonderful friends? Do you have a supportive and loving companion? What does nature give to you?
Start practicing gratitude today. Pull out a notebook and for just one minute write down anything that comes to mind that you are grateful for. One minute is not a long time, and you’ll find that the more you do it the easier it will get. You’re training your mind to look for things to be grateful for, and as you go through the day you’ll be collecting moment after moment and thing after thing to add to your gratitude journal.
Commit to adding to this journal every day. A good time might be before bedtime when you have time to reflect back on your day. Think of all the good things that occurred. Nothing is off limits. Anything that improved your life experience in any way counts. Even the things that you may initially have considered as bad, you may have realized that in the end, they really helped you in some way.
Regardless of what it may look like, life is always working in your favor. Anytime you find yourself in a situation that seems bad or negative, ask yourself: “Is there good for me in this situation?” You may not immediately be able to answer in the affirmative, but as a result of you posing this question to your mind it will be looking for the good in it.
For instance, on one occasion my car would not start due to a dead battery and my first reaction was one of irritation because I was going to be late. However, I reminded myself of the good in everything, and let go of the irritation. It took me no more than 10 minutes to jump my battery and get on the road; as I was driving I noticed that a car accident had just occurred. Who knows? Had I been on the road just 10 minutes earlier, I might have been involved in that accident. The thought of that possibility caused me to feel grateful for my dead battery. I don’t know about you, but I’ll pick a dead battery any day instead of a car accident.
Rhonda Byrne, author of the book “The Magic,” offers another very useful tip to really cultivate the emotion of gratitude. She recommends that next to every item that you add to your gratitude list you also add the reason why you’re grateful for it. This prompts your whole being to truly get into the act of appreciating the things that you have listed, rather than just making a list of those things.
Again, journaling at night just before you go to sleep may be ideal for you. You may just find out that once you’re done writing in your gratitude journal, you’ll be able to sleep better. And isn’t that something else to be grateful for?
Do you have any questions or comments you’d like to share? Drop me a line in the comment box below, or email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d love to hear from you.
To your success!