Gratitude has the power to change your entire life.
I know that’s a big statement, but it’s 100% true. I’ve experienced its power in every area of my life, and the science behind gratitude backs it up as well.
According to this article, “People who regularly practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things they’re thankful for experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems.”
Gratitude is the fastest way to shift us out of a bad mood, it’s the most effective method to quiet our inner critic’s damaging messages, and it genuinely makes us happier.
Gratitude grounds us by drawing us into the present moment. When we’re grateful, there’s no room for the past and future thinking that creates so much stress in our lives, or for the not good enough messages that hold us back in fear.
When something goes wrong or we run into a challenge, we all tend to default to either a victim, “this is happening to me” mentality, or a conflict mentality that causes us to lash out at others (or ourselves). The end-goal is to make gratitude your default instead.
This requires developing a gratitude practice that will transform your life on every level. Here are three ways to get started.
Build a Foundation by Starting Small
We don’t have to wait for a life-altering event to be grateful—and when you’re in the midst of a tough season, day, or moment, that’s too big of a leap anyway.
Sometimes all we can find to be grateful for is the fact that we woke up alive this morning — and that’s as good a start as any! Because then you can move to feeling grateful for the food that you have in the fridge to make breakfast. You can be thankful that you have clean water, clean clothes to wear, a roof over your head, and people in your life who love you.
If you have a full-time job that you don’t love, focus on the fact that it pays the bills and gives you financial stability. If you’re unhappy in your relationship, focus on one small thing you love about your partner.
This progression will look different for everyone, based on the good things that are in your life, but the premise is the same for all of us. Beginning by feeling grateful for the smallest thing can shift our perspective and help us see more and more things to be grateful for.
This simple step is the foundation for your gratitude practice.
Begin Your Day with Gratitude
Negative thoughts can send us spiraling the second we open our eyes. We wake up feeling tired, we open our eyes dreading the workday, or our first thought is how angry we still are at our partner because of the fight we had the night before.
Beginning your day with gratitude is a game-changer. It trains your brain to see more things to be grateful for, focus on those things, and think more positive thoughts throughout the day. Happier people have happier thoughts, so this has a significant impact on the way you feel.
If you run into a challenge or slip into a bad mood, you have a much higher chance of using gratitude to help get you through it more quickly — which is a powerful practice as well.
Write It Down
Writing activates a different part of your brain and helps to ingrain what you’re writing on a deeper level.
Start a gratitude journal and begin your day by writing down at least three things you’re grateful for. If you like the idea of spending even more time on this in the morning, I encourage you to free write about everything you’re grateful for, without worrying about spelling or grammar.
The longer you do this, the more material you’ll have to reference when you need to change your mood, be more present, or quiet your inner critic.
So much of what you’ll write down are also things that make you happy, and as you begin to notice what these things are, you can make a point to incorporate them more frequently into your day.
The Far-Reaching, Lasting Effects of Gratitude
Building a gratitude practice will change your life for the long-term. The impact isn’t limited to the moment or situation you want to change.
A study by the University of Pennsylvania found that “writing down three positive events each day for a week kept happiness levels high for up to six months.”
As gratitude begins to flow through your life on a daily basis, your overall mood will improve and you’ll become more resilient.
Defaulting more quickly to being thankful, instead of seeing yourself as the victim or lashing out in anger, will not only increase your happiness. Those around you will benefit from the ripple effect as well.
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