How has gratitude touched your life today, yesterday, or in the past week? If nothing comes to mind, don’t beat yourself up. It’s so easy to mindlessly ignore beauty and blessings all around us. After all, when was the last time we were grateful for a rainbow, changing leaves in Fall, the absence of humidity, adequate transportation, or a degree of good health?
While there is nothing magical about gratitude, for centuries humans have observed that gratitude can change our perspective when we’re having a crappy day. Maybe that explains why a Christian apostle told first century followers of Christ to “give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV). Living within the Roman Empire and following a new religion was no cake-walk for these ancient people. Yet their faith challenged them to practice gratitude in difficult circumstances. Twenty centuries later, research now connects gratitude with improved mental and physical health, as well as personal goal attainment. One study associated a daily focus on gratitude – rather than hassles – with increased energy, determination, and enthusiasm. A study of adults with neuromuscular disease showed that gratitude was connected with a more positive mood, a sense of greater social connections to others, increased optimism, and improved sleep. Another study demonstrated that children who practice gratitude have more positive attitudes towards their families and schools.
Donald Altman, author of “One Minute Mindfulness”, says that “locating gratitude is a way to cope with life’s difficult, stressful, and negative experiences” (p. 36). And where do we locate it? Gratitude is both an inward feeling we experience and an outward expression to others. So here’s what I wonder on a late Monday afternoon in September: (1) how will my outlook change if I adopt a daily practice of gratitude, and (2) how will my relationships change if begin to express gratitude in difficult experiences?
Mindful Tip #16: Locate Gratitude Daily with a Gratitude List
- Each day, let negative emotions or experiences challenge you to identify something for which you are grateful.
- At the end of each day, write down a list of at least 3 things for which you are grateful.
- Invite people close to you to share things for which they are grateful.
- Review your accumulated gratitude list at the end of one week and identify any changes in your mood, connections to others, eating, or sleeping.
What might change in your life when you become more mindful of gratitude?
If you feel overwhelmed by life’s stressful, difficult circumstances, I invite you to contact me about counseling in Manassas VA.