It’s trendy now. It’s a buzzword on the lips of many a motivational speaker, life coach, and self-help personality. Heck, I talk about it all the time, too. I think it’s a great habit to adopt.
But I also know gratitude is in danger of becoming a cliche. We’re being bombarded by the idea. Overexposure to people pushing us to feel grateful is threatening to make us cynical about the whole concept.
Just like teenagers who abandon a social media platform once their parents start using it, you may be feeling a little disdainful toward any would-be gratitude guru.
That’s what I’m worried about.
I want to rescue gratitude from the clutches of cliche, because the concept is too damn important to lose.
So, let this be the last blog post you ever read about gratitude. You already know it’s important to not take your life for granted. Stop listening to the gurus, including me. You don’t need any more advice on this particular type of mindfulness.
Self-Help Versus Personal Development
I just want to clarify: I’m not into self-help. Because the term implies you’re alone when it comes to improving yourself.
No one should be an island. We don’t do well in extended isolation.
We need other people to help us grow. That’s why it’s so important to develop good relationships: other people help us see ourselves more clearly.
This is why I prefer the term “personal development.” It doesn’t imply you need to work on yourself alone.
Yes, I just said “work.” Let me be totally honest here, too. Like anything worthwhile, shaping your thoughts, beliefs, and emotions so they become your strength takes effort.
Creating your ideal “designer life” takes work. Cultivating gratitude also takes work. I know, the gurus usually avoid that naughty four-letter word.
The first step in becoming consistently grateful is accepting that it will take work to make it a habit.
The Final Word on Developing a Gratitude Habit
The practice of gratitude as a happiness tool is scientifically supported. Long-term studies – especially in the area of positive psychology – prove gratitude’s effectiveness. A positive, appreciative attitude contributes to greater success at work, better health, a higher sense of well-being, and even faster recovery from injury.
But while we may acknowledge gratitude’s many benefits, it still can be difficult to sustain. So many of us are trained to notice what’s lacking in our lives. We have to learn a new way of looking at things, a new habit.
When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.
Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are glossed over or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being. Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.
So, flex those common sense muscles and figure out what triggers your gratitude. It’s going to be different for everyone. Here’s some suggestions:
- Pick a “gratitude time” during your day and stick to it. It needs to be scheduled, just like physical exercise or taking medicine. Take five minutes in a peaceful place and focus on what’s good in your life.
- Gamify your gratitude. Give yourself some sort of meaningful reward for finding the hidden blessings in a challenging situation.
- Set an “appreciation alarm.” Use your smart phone or other device and create an automated alert to remind you to pay attention to the good things you’ve got going on during your busy day.
- Keep a gratitude journal. Include lists of people, things, whatever you’re thankful for. Paste in pictures. Keep the journal easily accessible. Use it as a reminder when you’re feeling down. If you don’t want to keep an old-fashioned journal, create something you can save on your computer, smart phone, or online.
- Speaking of online gratitude, consider joining or creating a Facebook (or other social media) community of like-minded people dedicated to practicing gratitude.
There, that’s it. That’s the last time you ever need to read an article about gratitude! You’ve got your appreciation certification! You don’t need any more training! Now get out there and live it!