When Brené Brown began interviewing people for her research on whole-hearted living, she assumed that people felt gratitude as a result of feeling joy. What she was surprised to find out is that the reverse is true. People who practice gratitude are more joyful.
Gratitude is powerful folks!
Scott Barry Kaufman also noted this in the Scientific American when he did an analysis on several categories of qualities that are related to feelings of well-being. He wanted to see if there were certain qualities that predicted well-being more than others. And he found just that. Gratitude along with love of learning floated to the top and if cultivated are the highest predictors for having good feelings.
Why is that important? Because it means that you are not at the whimsy of your emotions. It often feels like you have no control over how you feel, but you do. And, one of the best practices to swing yourself into feeling better overall is to cultivate a gratitude practice.
The key word here is practice. As Brené Brown points out in her book The Gifts of Imperfection, you can’t just have an ‘attitude of gratitude’, you need to actively create and pursue gratitude as an action.
Often I sit with clients who see clearly and vividly and almost constantly all the terrible things that are wrong and bad about themselves and their world. The scale in their own mind is completely tipped into the land of negative judgment. Consistently practicing gratitude can balance the scale and begin to help focus on what is working quite right.
Here’s my instruction in creating a gratitude practice:
- Every day write down – and I mean write down, in a journal, your phone, or some other dedicated spot – 3-5 things that you’re grateful for
- Each day you MUST write something different
- Each day review your ever expanding list
Simple, yet profound. This practice brings your focus to what you are usually taking for granted, like:
- Isn’t it cool that hot water comes right out of your wall in the shower?
- What about traffic lights? You might find them annoying, but when you think about it they are awesome at keeping you from running into other cars on a regular basis. And, cars, need I say more?
- Look in your refrigerator or pantry. You probably have a lot of food in there. And, if you run out you can go to a big open store and buy some. Isn’t that awesome?!
- And, what about the device you’re reading this on? What about reading?!
Those examples are all about having, but what about those more universal concepts?
- Look around, there is beauty everywhere; the green in the trees, the blue in the sky, the sparkle in your loved one’s eyes.
- And, what about your physical body and all the myriad ways that it works really well. Isn’t it amazing that your breath goes in and out of your lungs without you having to think about it?
- You know what? People love you. Even if you don’t believe it, they do so look for that and add it to your gratitude. And, what and who do you love? Love is a good one!
Bring your focus to gratitude; actively work it in your life. I guarantee that you will begin to generate more good feeling.
Do you have a gratitude practice? What are you grateful for?