Modern life often leave us feeling dissatisfaction, it makes us look inwards and constantly consider the things we don’t have. You might feel you don’t have your dream job, or that you are not doing as many exciting things as you see others doing online, or that you don’t have enough friends. All of these things can leave us dissatisfied.
But there is evidence to show that we can counter these feelings of dissatisfaction by practising gratitude. Gratitude can mean very different things to different people. You can feel grateful for someone who did something for you or random events like the weather.
Your brain is wired to recognise when someone has done something nice for you. It reacts with gratitude to motivate you to repay others. This gratitude makes you care about others, and others care about you. Also, feeling gratitude makes it easier to save and retrieve positive memories and counteract negative feelings like envy and cynicism. So, people who are grateful, no matter what for, tend to be happier and more satisfied. In the best case, gratitude can trigger a positive feedback loop.
Several studies have tried to work out how gratitude can be used to lead to more happiness. The best way is to keep a gratitude diary.
How to keep a gratitude diary
The most straightforward gratitude exercise is to keep a gratitude diary. Sit down for a few minutes and write down five to 10 things you’re grateful for. Schedule some regular time for you to do this one to three times a week.
Keeping a gratitude diary might feel odd at first, so start simple. Can you feel grateful for a little thing like how great coffee is or that someone was kind to you? Or can you appreciate something someone else did for you? Could you reflect on which things or people you would miss if they were gone, and be grateful that they’re in your life? We’re all different, so you’ll know what works for you.
When practising gratitude, it is vital to be specific. “I’m grateful that my co-workers brought me soup when I was sick on Tuesday” will be more effective than “I’m grateful for my co-workers.”
Take a note of unexpected events that surprise you, as these tend to elicit stronger levels of gratitude.
Think about how things could be different
Consider what your life would be like without certain people or things in it as well as writing down all the new good stuff. Be grateful for the negative situations you have avoided. The idea is not to take the good fortune you already have for granted.
Don’t overdo it
Evidence suggests that writing occasionally is more beneficial than every day.
Share your gratitude with others
Research has found that expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships. Take some time to tell your partner, friend or family member about something they do that you appreciate. Be sure to let them know!
This is not about positive thinking
Practising gratitude is not about ignoring the bad things that happen. It’s about trying to acknowledge the good things that happen.
In fact, remembering bad situations can help you to acknowledge your current situation. It might give you perspective on how far you have come or how your situation has changed for the better.
Give it a go
Practicing gratitude can be an awkward thing to do as we all find it easier to focus on the negatives.
Hopefully, the examples in this email will help you to start your own gratitude diary and allow you to switch your thought processes and to look at what you have.
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