New Year, New Mindset: Living With An Attitude Of Gratitude
As we embark upon a new year, many use this milestone as a time to start afresh, set new goals, and give ourselves new opportunities for achieving these goals. As part of looking forward and thinking about goals for the new year, why not take a few moments to embrace a feeling of gratitude.
Making Gratitude a Part of Each Day
It takes little effort to see how so many in the world are suffering and in pain. Too often, we look at each other and feel jealous or envious. But we can all live a life of abundance, independent of material things, by making the choice to fill our hearts with the spirit of gratitude.
Gratitude is not necessarily an indebtedness to someone for giving or bestowing something upon you, but rather the recognition of all the blessings that your life brings – from a simple smile you may receive to an exotic trip you may have taken or the gift of having a good friend or watching the sunset on a clear night. Simply taking a few moments to embrace and experience gratitude has a huge effect on our mental attitude by recognizing how blessed we all are.
Adopting an attitude of gratitude doesn’t mean you ignore problems, it means your gratefulness is greater than, or at least as big as, the problems in your life. Gratitude doesn’t have to be saved for the “big” things in life. The habit of being grateful starts with appreciating every good thing in life and recognizing that there is nothing too small for you to be thankful for in your life. Even thinking about negative or difficult situations can help to really nail down what you have to be thankful for.
Western Buddhist master Jack Kornfield remembers an exercise he did with a man who was caring for his grandson while his son and daughter-in-law battled drug addiction. Despite all that he had been through, the man was still able to find gratitude for the amount of compassion he had learned to show and the impact he was able to have on other people. Dig a little deeper into some of your own past experiences and try to figure out how they have helped shape you into the person you are today.
To help establish or refresh this attitude of gratitude, the following three steps may be beneficial. Taking the time to write them down, and add to this list throughout the year can serve as part of a daily ritual to set your intentions and bring happiness to your life.
Step 1: Take an inventory of all the things you are grateful for in life.
Daily gifts – Are you grateful for that wonderful cup of coffee first thing in the morning, or the greeting you receive so warmly from someone at work, or maybe even those few moments you take to watch the sunset or sunrise? People – Think about all those near and far, who bring positive sentiments to your life. Or those who have helped you grow as a person – and don’t forget to be grateful for yourself! What do you like about yourself, what you have accomplished, or the qualities you exhibit or the roles you play to others. All of these are important too!
Tangible objects – Favorite foods, books, articles of clothing, electronics or anything that you enjoy. Opportunities or experiences in life – playing sports or taking walks, watching your children or grandchildren grow up or play soccer, that trip you took last summer that you still reminisce about during these cold winter days, or having enough money to buy a coffee or treat a friend to lunch, the fun of getting caught in the rain or driving to a designation without hitting traffic. Large or small, there are endless things we can all be grateful for every day.
Step 2: Practice mindfulness
Set time, for a few minutes each day, and think through five to ten things you are grateful for. Utilize the meditation technique known as Naikan which involves reflecting on three questions: “What have I received today?” “What have I given today?” and “What troubles and difficulty have I caused today”. The important part is to picture each thing you are grateful for in your mind and sit with that feeling of gratitude.
Practicing this each day can actually rewire your brain to naturally be more grateful, and bring happiness after each session. In fact, studies have shown that after only eight weeks of this daily practice, people started showing brain patterns that led to greater empathy and happiness.
Step 3: Live Outwardly
For many, this sentiment of gratitude will feel more complete when expressing these sentiments to the people you care about, or by spending more time with those you care about. Soul Pancake, a group that works to discover the “science of happiness” ran an experiment where they encouraged people to write a letter to a person they were grateful for. By itself, this exercise increased their levels of happiness from 2 to 4%.
However, when the same people made a phone call to the person they were thankful for to express their gratitude directly, happiness levels jumped from 4% to 19%.
Not only does expressing your gratitude for someone make their day a little brighter, it can do wonders to increase your own levels of gratitude and happiness in the long run. Practice gratitude in action! Let your gratitude show in your actions by choosing to treat yourself and others with respect, honesty, kindness, and care. Leave space for someone to merge in traffic, smile at a stranger, or clean up your mess in the kitchen. Be grateful for the connections between you and the rest of the world, and let it show!
Treat yourself to a bubble bath, a bicycle ride, a nap, or whatever you enjoy doing. Show your gratitude for your life by treating yourself with care.
Gratitude comes in many forms and offers just as many benefits. Living a grateful life means consciously recognizing all that is good in life, and mindfully appreciating each piece that brings you happiness while embracing the joy that comes naturally with gratitude. Living a grateful life makes it easier to have fun, easier to let negativity go, and easier to enjoy life’s joyful moments, large or small.
Make 2019 the year that we look back upon next January, and appreciate how we have spent the year living with an attitude of gratitude.
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