New year, new opportunities to say thank you

January 6, 2015

“He is a wise man who does not grieve for the things which he has not, but rejoices for those which he has.” — Epictetus

 

As the first post for the year, I wanted to start of with what I want to cultivate more of this year. I don’t really do resolutions, although I have many things I could work on, as they usually simply remain unachieved and even forgotten about a month into the new year. So this year I am just going for cultivating more gratitude. This is not something I have done consciously so much before but I understand it to be very beneficial on many levels, so I am just going simple this year and being more grateful. So let’s look at what it is. Gratitude at its most simple is the act of being thankful for something outside of oneself. It is about looking for the positive aspects even in a situation that we might not like much and focussing on what we have rather than what we don’t. It prevents us from taking what we do have for granted. It is the cement of decent human society. Or as Benedictine monk Brother David Steindl-Rast says “gratefulness is the inner gesture of giving meaning to our life by receiving life as gift.” Perhaps it is the pace of our modern life that takes us away from these simple truths, but life is a gift for all of us and that concept of looking at life as a gift is very central to gratitude.

 

There has been a lot of research into gratitude in recent years and it shows that there are many benefits: physical, social and psychological. At its most simple, the research shows that those who are truly grateful have corresponding levels of happiness and wellbeing. Gratitude increases satisfaction with life and reduces symptoms such as depression, worry and anxiety. It also helps people sleep better and experience less pain. It makes us physically better and stronger, even our immune system becomes stronger. It can also promote forgiveness as there is always something in every situation to be grateful for, it is usually just a matter of looking. Research also shows that even though the emotion of gratitude is within us, it is actually a skill, so we can all learn to be truly grateful for what we have.

 

So how can we add more of this to our life?

One simple thing is thinking and maybe writing every day or at least weekly. You can write either 1 thing that you are grateful for and then 5 reasons why you are grateful for that or 3-5 things that you are grateful for. However, research does show that it is better to choose one thing a day and reflect on that in depth rather than having a superficial list. You can also write a gratitude letter to someone who might have done something for you or given something to you who you have never properly thanked. You can also focus on positive intentions behind actions that others do, rather than looking for the negative as this wonderful Chinese proverb encourages us to do “When eating bamboo sprouts, remember the man who planted them.” It is also important, if you have children, to teach them about gratitude, as this helps them to become happier too. Research shows that taking action and deciding to write a gratitude journal is much more effective if first you make the decision to be happier and more grateful. It might also help to think of the details, especially the people themselves and not only things as well as the feelings at the same time as you write them.

 “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein

 

Be Thankful

Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?

Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.

Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.

Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.

Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.

Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.

Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.

It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.

GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.

Author Unknown

 

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