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Cultivating an Attitude of Gratitude

There are huge benefits of having an attitude of gratitude. Now more than ever, it’s important to see how happy we can be if we are truly grateful for what we have.

If there is anything this pandemic has taught us, it’s that nothing is certain and we truly have no idea what is around the corner. We can spend our entire lives in pursuit of the next big thing, an achievement, a possession, a relationship or a life milestone, hoping that that will finally make us feel happy, content, complete.

We spend so little time congratulating and celebrating ourselves for just being, we often forget to be grateful for who we are and what we already have.

People keep talking about getting back to ‘normal’, but the truth is, there is no normal. All there is is personally- and socially-constructed ideas and ideals of how we might live a life. Much of this is based on getting and achieving more and the ties of blind consumerism.

How many of you have realised that life doesn’t need to be as hard as it was pre-lockdown? That there are better and different ways to live? How many are planning on maintaining some of the simplicities of life when lockdown was in full swing?

We are human beings, not human doings

Numerous studies over the last 15 years have shown a wide range of benefits to demonstrating an attitude of gratitude. Even those facing adversity. Let’s face it, collectively, we are facing adversity now, so cultivating an attitude of gratitude might help give you the oomph you need to face another challenge. It might give you the motivation to get through a day. Because, it’s not in the being knocked down that defines us, it’s in the getting back up again as well. And, whether we need to just stop and smell the roses for the sake of enjoying the little things in life, or because we need a helping hand in dusting ourselves off and getting back up again, then practicing gratitude might help.

What is an attitude of gratitude?

It’s about being able to look at even the most negative experiences you’ve had and finding a positive in them. That is, even if your gratitude is that you survived that incident or moment in time. How have your experiences, positive and negative affected you? Made you stronger? Given you a different perspective on life? Helped you to make better decisions for yourself? Are you able to share your experience with others so they can learn from you?

It’s not just about looking backwards, or about the big things in life. It can also be about looking at your present, your future and the little things. This is because, after all, life is a culmination of the small moments and not every day is going to be a big day, or the best day. You need to be able to turn the small into something big and perceive the mundane as something better.

We need to look at each moment, each day as a gift and find the good in each. Don’t get me wrong, I’m old enough to understand that some days are just crummy, but we need to reflect as often as possible, on the positives in every day. Be it the warm cup of tea that you started the day with, the smell of the rain, the fact that, even though you had bills to pay, you had the means to pay them and the benefit of the water, gas, electricity you use.

Years ago, while learning to cultivate an attitude of gratitude, I not only reflected on the big and the small and found a positive in most days, I also challenged myself to think of all the things I found to put a downer on my day:  filling up with petrol, washing up, hoovering, sitting in traffic.

How do you do it?

Filling up with petrol, for instance, was a headache for me. I hated it. Whenever I filled up with petrol, I always seemed to be in a rush and felt stressed. It always seemed like it was also wet and windy, playing havoc with my hair and outfit. So, I thought about what filling up with petrol allowed me to do. I love to travel, go on days out and have little adventures in my car. If I didn’t fill up with petrol, I’d struggle to get to the job I love, see the people I love, buy the things I needed to buy and have those travels and adventures that, to me, are the meaning of life.

So, instead of dreading filling up with petrol and doing it when I was in desperate need, and therefore in a rush, I formed the habit of filling up on a regular basis, at a petrol station that is convenient and at a convenient time. I also now appreciate the smell of petrol, and the joy of stopping the pump bang on the money! So, while the process of filling up with petrol hasn’t changed, my attitude towards it and my experience and perception of it have changed. This means it’s something I no-longer dread, it’s something i’m grateful for.

Therefore, if washing up and hoovering aren’t your bag, make them as fun as possible. Crank up the tunes and have a dance while doing those jobs. Be grateful you’ve got a family and pets that make a mess. Be grateful you’ve been able to provide yourself with a dinner. Not everyone, everywhere can.

It’s been found that there are biological, psychological, social and spiritual benefits to cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

What are the benefits of an attitude of Gratitude?

It takes time, skill and a conscious effort to appreciate even the little things on even the worst of the worst days. So, it’s important to bear in mind that taking the time to cultivate an attitude of gratitude has the following benefits:

  • Helps you to grow, learn and heal
  • You are more likely to experience more positive emotions on a regular basis
  • You feel more alive
  • Focusing on the positive is a grounding experience and busies the mind, deflecting from worrying and fretting. This can lead to better sleep patterns and better overall health and well-being.
  • Helps in staying focused and motivated
  • You appreciate who you are, your skills, qualities and abilities, therefore promoting better self-esteem, better self-worth and a healthier relationship with your body, all of which increases your confidence and overall contentment
  • Improves your relationships: with yourself, partner, family, friends and work colleagues

So, cultivating an attitude of gratitude is more than just looking on the bright side, it’s about changing your perspective, and when you change your perspective, you can look at or towards the bigger picture, overlooking the daily gripes and niggles that have the potential to ruin a day or want you to allocate it to ‘one of those days’, and encourages you to not sweat the small stuff, but to remove self-pity, feeling frustrated about petty annoyances and focus on what’s important, that every day is a gift and we need to focus on our gifts and live mindfully and with purpose and intention.

How to Express an attitude of gratitude

  • Take some time to think about what you are grateful for. Just shut your eyes and think, or you can meditate on it, it’s up to you.
  • Talk about it. Tell people, say it out loud! How often do people show you that they are grateful for you and who you are? Probably not enough as you’d like them to, and they perhaps feel the same way, too, so get in the habit of telling people and hopefully they’re reciprocate. It’ll be a win-win for all involved.
  • Express it. Same as above, but send a letter, a card, a text or a message. The more people feel appreciated, the bigger they’ll feel!
  • Write it down. Some people keep a gratitude journal, but if that seems too much, keep a list of three to five things each day. A fun thing to do, is to put these onto small pieces of paper, fold them over and keep them in a gratitude jar. So, if and when you find yourself needing boost, you can pick some out and pick yourself up.
  • Seek it. Remember that we find what we look for, so look for the positives and you’ll find them!

About Sara Wright

Sara Wright is a confidence coach based in Leicester. She specialises in helping improve people’s mental health self-esteem. She has over 20 years’ experience, as well as a BSc and MSc to back up her practical knowledge. To find out more, check out her website and Facebook page.