I am a glass-half-empty kind of gal. My husband, however, is the eternal optimist. So it must be true, opposites attract. The funny thing is this, to meet us on the street you would probably assume that it were reverse. I am quite the cheerleader when it comes to others. And it isn’t fake in the least; I truly believe the best in and for other people. But when it comes to myself, or a situation I find myself in, well, then, my natural inclination is not so sunny.
Forging a new path by being thankful
As you have probably already guessed, thankfulness is not my default attitude. Complaining- yes. Discouragement- absolutely. But heart-felt gratitude for all the amazingly good things in my life, sadly- not so much. And yet, I know that living this way isn’t healthy and it robs me of joy. So I have been learning a new way, forging a new path (literally, new path-ways in my brain). I am training myself to respond differently, to have more hope now and for the future. To really, truly be thankful in all circumstances.
Thankfulness takes practice
I would be lying if I didn’t say that it has been two steps forward, one step back. I’m learning and that’s okay. In the past I expected perfection of myself and my circumstances before I could be thankful. I was rarely thankful. So, even giving myself some grace in the learning process is progress, steps closer to being a more grateful mom, wife, and friend. And the more I practice the easier it is becoming.
I have made so many changes over the last decade that have helped me enjoy life more, and my effort at thankfulness has been one of the best. I kid you not. I am not sure why this surprises me so much, having been taught this in my church-upbringing, yet, it really does. In the past it seemed like such a small thing. Unimportant, even, and something easily overlooked. Yet, when I finally put thankfulness into practice, I began to see a shift in my attitude, a shift in my perspective.
A new way of thinking
Challenges become opportunities. Thank you. A messy kitchen is a sign of a well-fed family. Thank you. Piles of laundry that need attention are reminders of the way we are graciously clothed. Thank you. Trials become teachers. Thank you. No longer are noisy children a distraction, but a delight. Thank you. Rainy days are reasons to pop popcorn and cuddle on the couch. Thank you. Bills to be paid mean that we are warm and bathed and entertained. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.
What you can expect to happen
This shift was major and so were the results. Researchers agree. They have found that people who practice gratitude experience these amazing things…
- more positive feelings
- less stress and depression
- more empathy and willingness to help others
- greater optimism
- higher life satisfaction
- placing less emphasis on material things
- less envy
A formerly glass-half-empty kind of gal?
And so, while I am not perfectly thankful, I continue at it for good reasons. Foremost it is my Christian duty (if only I had gotten here sooner!) and beyond that I am just way happier when I do. As in, those things on the list are true, and perhaps my perception of the glass is changing. Maybe, just maybe, I will become a formerly glass-half-empty kind of gal.
Ways to practice thankfulness/gratitude
In a previous post, I shared about gratitude and why practice it. In the article, I talk about 5 ways to incorporate gratitude into your life. They really do work, so I thought I would share them with you again. If, like me, you struggle to see the glass half-full, these suggestions will help you onto the path toward thankfulness and the resulting greater well-being. Really they could help all of us- even the eternal optimist (ahem, Brance ;).
1.) Keep a gratitude journal. Make sure to write a sentence for each thing you are grateful for. And, it might help to keep it handy by your bed or at your desk, for easy access.
2.) Express thankfulness to and for others. This can be done verbally or in a note. One researcher found that writing a 300 word gratitude letter resulted in boosted happiness and less depression, for up to a month, in those who participated!
3.) Pray. Research shows that religious people are more apt to be grateful. Likely because, “Gratitude does not require religious faith, but faith enhances the ability to be grateful.” (Robert Emmons, Phd.)
4.) Note things you are grateful for throughout the day. This can be either a mental or verbal exercise. The important thing is that you express gratitude when you see or experience something good/beautiful. They can be as “simple” as a striking sunrise or warm drink on a cold day.
5.) Set “gratefulness markers”. These are event(s)/time(s) when you intend to be grateful every single day. It can be first thing in the morning, before or during meals, during a commute, or while getting ready for bed at night. Whatever works for you!
A great reminder for me
I am really happy to write this article on thankfulness as it reminds me to keep at it. Being thankful is powerful and life-changing, for you and the people your life impacts. It is no little thing. It’s completely worth every ounce of effort.
With love and gratitude for YOU,
This is article 4 in a 4 part series.
- Article 1: Happiness is NOT a destination
- Article 2: Let go: happiness and freedom in surrender
- Article 3: Practice self-care: a gift to those you love, not selfishness