by Sharon Quercioli
We often talk about gratitude, especially around this time of the year, but what does it mean to actually be grateful and show gratitude? First, we’re going to have to break it down. Gratitude comes from the Latin word “gratus,” which means “thankful.” So, when you feel gratitude, you’re feeling thankful for something that someone did for you.
Simple, right? Gratitude is that feeling that you get when someone holds the door open for you when you’ve got armfuls of grocery bags or if a stranger holds an elevator door for you. We all feel gratitude every day over small things, but we can always do more.
Studies have shown that when you are grateful of the things that happen around you, on a consistent basis, your body goes through positive psychological, physical and social changes. Seriously!
People who show gratitude regularly are:
- more outgoing
- show more optimism
- have stronger immune systems
- less bothered by aches
- exercise more often
- make healthier decisions, and…
- are more refreshed when waking in the morning.
Gratitude also helps us stay present in the current situation and aids in celebrating the little things that often get overlooked.
Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Cultivating a sense of gratitude will help you refocus your attention toward what’s good and right in your life, rather than dwelling on the negatives and all the things that you may feel are lacking.
And, like a muscle, this mental state can be strengthened with practice. Besides keeping a daily gratitude journal, other ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude include:
Being Verbally Grateful
Saying “thank you” for the smallest things isn’t just an example of using manners for manner’s sake. It is also a way that you can show gratitude and, at the same time, make others feel good about doing good deeds. This is a simple and easy way to “pay it forward.” Saying a simple “thank you” or “I really appreciate what you do” can brighten someone’s day or turn a bad day around.
Physically Showing Gratitude
There are many different ways to show someone that you are grateful for them and/or what they’ve done. One of my favorite ideas is to have a handful of cards at hand (in a purse, briefcase, beach bag, or in the glovebox of your car). Fill it out as a simple thank you card with a general statement in it. Something like, “Thank you so much for what you do! You’ve made my day better!” Then, when the situation arises, hand them out.
- Write thank-you notes: Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank-you letters can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.
- Count your blessings: Once a week, reflect on events for which you are grateful, and write them down. As you do, feel the sensations of happiness and thankfulness that you felt at the time it happened, going over it again in your mind.
- Pray: Expressing thanks during your prayers is another way to cultivate gratitude.
- Mindfulness Mediation: Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you’re grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory.
Start a “Pay It Forward” at your favorite café or bakery. Leave five or six dollars to pay for a drink for the next person in line or for a veteran to have a cup of coffee. You may also want to leave money at the toll booth to pay for the next driver coming through.
Giving Back All Year Long
Next year, make a habit of starting a gratitude journal. Write down what you are grateful for every day. Make sure that you write down something different for every day. Even the smallest things count. If that feels like a habit that you can’t keep, try something different. Make a pact with a friend (or with yourself) to go an entire month without complaining, gossiping or criticizing. It’s actually harder than you may imagine but it can go a long way in terms of starting a new and better habit.
So start the New Year with “I Am Releasing the Past, Living in the Present, and Looking Forward to the Future.” Live in a state of gratitude to prepare yourself for the best possible future. If you’re not grateful for what you already have, it’s doubtful that you’ll be grateful when you get more.
Let go of what you don’t want especially fear, and the universe will fill the empty space with love.
It’s important to have something to look forward to in the future. This could be accomplishing a goal, enjoying a new sport or hobby, taking a trip, making new friends, starting a business, buying a home, organizing your home, writing a book or starting a new relationship.
Make it a great 2017!