What are you truly grateful for in your life?
It’s a scientific fact that gratitude boosts our levels of serotonin and dopamine. These are the chemicals in our brain that make us happy.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the feeling of thankfulness or appreciation for what we have. This creates positive emotions. This positive emotion stimulates our brain to make us feel happier. This increase in happiness can be as much as 25% (See The Science – gratitude). Sadly, this crucial component of happiness is often overlooked. We live such busy lives, doing the things we have to do, we forget about all the ‘good things’. in our life.
Why be grateful?
People who choose to have an attitude of gratitude feel lighter in mood and experience less stress. This is because we are unable to hold negative and positive emotions at the same time. But the most amazing thing about gratitude is that it still works when things aren’t going well. All you have to do is consciously remember to think about something you feel grateful for. Celebrating that ‘good thing’ will lead you to an increased sense of wellbeing. The more gratitude you have, the better you will feel.
Expressing gratitude is a conscious choice and it takes practice. By practising gratitude daily, you will shift your attention away from stress and worry. Eventually, you will develop the ability to reframe your negative thoughts, allowing you to see life in a positive light. Very quickly, you will notice the benefits by becoming more resilient. You will start to achieve life goals you did not think possible. This will enhance your life satisfaction by increasing your personal growth. The act of gratitude then becomes self-perpetuating. Over time, you will develop more and more awareness of the ‘good things’ in your life.
What is your experience of being consciously grateful?
Last year was a particularly stressful time for me. As a result, my mental and physical health suffered. Then one day, I decided to take action. I consciously became more grateful for the ‘good things’ in my life. To help me do this, I kept a daily journal. Each evening, I would write down three things I had been grateful for that day. It took a few months, but I soon felt my mood lift. Once my mood lifted, all the bad things didn’t feel quite so bad after all. My level of happiness increased and because of this I was able to make positive changes to my life. Since I have implemented these changes, my stress levels have reduced and my physical health has started to improve.
With this increased level of happiness, I was able to express my gratitude and appreciation towards others more freely. I would say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ more often. I made a conscious decision to compliment someone daily. I would often think a compliment, but I never had the confidence to say it out loud. When I did, people responded with a smile and a positive comment in return. These positive reactions towards me boosted my self-esteem and self-worth. This may sound superficial, but the more I practised, the more natural it became. This ability to notice and appreciate others has been crucial in increasing my overall sense of wellbeing.
Paying a compliment
The impact of paying a compliment to others and the reaction it gets has been a big surprise to me. The person who receives the compliment appears to enjoy feeling noticed. It’s been a great way for me to connect with others. Each compliment seems to strengthen my relationships, build trust and encourage conversations. A word of warning: each compliment must be genuine. False praise is easy to spot and it undermines any trust. In return, I am learning to smile and say ‘thank you’ when I receive a compliment. I am conscious not to brush it off with embarrassment, but accept it graciously!
I know science supports the fact that expressing gratitude and appreciation will make me feel happier. So why, when my life becomes busy, do I seem to forget this fact? In all honesty, it’s just an excuse. All I have to do is consciously recognise all that is good in my life. I am more than aware of the benefits of gratitude and I know it’s worth the effort. I know this because I have grown kinder to others and I have found that others in return are kinder to me. This has brought me a greater sense of positivity and contentment in my life. Gratitude and appreciation is a habit worth forming, because it creates a more positive attitude towards life and other people.
How are you going to be grateful for the ‘good things’ in your life?
Set aside some time each night. No more than five minutes. Think back over your day.
Focus on all the good things that have happened. It doesn’t matter what you focus on as long as it means something to you emotionally!
Here are six top tips to help you feel more grateful and see your level of happiness increase:
- In your day-to-day life, notice and focus on the ‘good things’ you have in your life. It does not matter how big or how small.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Evidence shows that keeping a gratitude journal for as little as three weeks will result in better sleep and more energy.
- If you start to see negative thoughts creep in, switch your mind to something or someone more positive.
- When you find yourself in a bad situation, view it as an experience. Ask yourself: what have I learnt from this?
- Do not complain, criticise or gossip about others for a week. Notice how much energy you are spending on all that negativity.
- Genuinely pay a compliment or two to someone daily. Whether they respond with surprise or delight, they will feel valued.