How To Bring More Gratitude Into Your Life And Improve Your Mental Health Subsequently.
Gratitude refers to being grateful and appreciative of everything that we have in life. It is a very positive emotion and practicing it does help in improving the overall sense of positivity.
The holiday season is here and so is the holiday cheer. People are simultaneously relaxed and stressed during these times since the year is about to end and it’s almost time for a break. The end of the year makes humans introspect and thus you hear a lot about being appreciative of what you have and practicing gratitude. There are a lot of stories about the gift of celebration and the fortune of those who have friends and family to share this time with. I myself hear the word gratitude being thrown around a lot during these times but not a lot of people understand what gratitude truly means.
Gratitude refers to being grateful and appreciative of everything that we have in life. It is a very positive emotion and practicing it does help in improving the overall sense of positivity. However, gratitude often gets clouded by negative emotions making people resistant to the entire concept. You may have heard talk about how we should be grateful for what we have because so many people live with a lot less. In the same way, we get told that we should not lament over the bad things in our lives because others have it worse. These are both commonly heard sentiments when talking about gratitude however, they’re both wrong. Your gratitude shouldn’t come from pity for someone else or as guilt for being happy. Your gratitude should be a product of mindfulness and peace. Gratitude that comes from guilt or comparison isn’t gratitude at all. It ultimately leads to an internal resistance to being appreciative about life and is counterproductive in the end.
A good beginner's guide to gratitude is the famous book The Magic (Rhonda Byrne). It tells you about the power of gratitude and gives you a bit of a guide on how to practice it in your day to day lives. A lot of self-help books talk about gratitude and how to practice it but if you’re someone who doesn’t want to read an entire book to get the message or if you’d like an easier way in then you can start small. Can you think of anything that you’re grateful for today? It doesn’t have to be anything big or even significant. Maybe you caught the bus on time this morning despite having overslept, maybe you ate a good meal or maybe you came into some money. None of those are better than the other and they all deserve your gratitude.
You may wonder how recounting all the little things you think you should be grateful for will help your mental health and the answer is rather simple. Sometimes we focus so much on the bad things in life that we start overlooking the good. In times where life seems drab and gloomy, it helps to remember all that is good. Romanticizing your life can seem trivial at first but once you do, it makes the biggest difference. You may not feel great immediately after thinking of things to be grateful for but you’ll slowly find yourself doing it without thinking about it at all. One could say gratitude is less of a radical change and more of a deliberate habit.
You can start by sitting down at the end of each day and writing down three things you are grateful for in life and three things you’re grateful for on that day. Doing this will help you identify the things in your life that make you happy and comfortable. As you do this every day you’ll start to identify and appreciate the constant sources of happiness in your life. Maybe it is your friends, your family, your health or your job; regardless of what it is that makes you happy in life, you will now be more conscious and appreciative of it. There will be days when you can’t come up with something obvious that you feel lucky to have. These are the most important days for your journey towards being more grateful. These are the days where you will think harder till you come up with something seemingly trivial that actually made you happy. The point of this exercise is not to write down your gratitude, it is to help you identify it easily and more often.
If you’re someone who often forgets to practice gratitude or if you find yourself being overly pessimistic, take a break. Look around you and at the situation you’re in and try to think of things that are going right. It is easy to focus on the bad when you’re in a bad place but it takes strength to look at the good. A combination of this and writing about your gratitude will allow you to look at your life more kindly and appreciate the small things in life. The best part is that you won’t do it out of guilt or as a comparison to others. You will practice gratitude because you really are grateful for life and the gifts that it has given you.
Gratitude may not be the only thing that can help you live a better life but it is certainly one of the important ones. Without gratitude one starts to disregard the good things in life. A lack of gratitude can also lead to constant complaining instead of looking for solutions. Without gratitude, it becomes difficult to gather strength in times of need and difficulty. If we were to look at a more spiritual reason to practice gratitude, we would find that the energies we put into the world matter. If you only focus on the bad, chances are you’ll only see the bad. Life is hard, always has been, and will probably continue to be the same. It is only a matter of how you handle the hard parts of life. So practice gratitude till it becomes a subconscious habit.
I’ll conclude with a quote that perfectly reflects the essence of gratitude -
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing. It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.” - Voltaire