The definition of attitude is “a way of thinking”, “a frame of mind” or “a view point”. All too often “having an attitude” is said implying that it is something negative. That if we have an attitude, or a particular view point, we are stubborn, difficult or challenging… Or contrary is another word one could use. Or maybe just different for simply seeing something from a different, but less appreciated angle than someone else.
But what about developing an attitude of gratitude?
We hear about the potential benefits of adopting such a frame of mind, that perhaps it may just be worth pursuing?
When I went to look for some research on the subject of the benefits of gratitude, a friend of mine kindly pointed me in the direction of this article, which let’s say saved me an enormous amount of hours! In this lengthy article the author have compiled the findings of 40 research studies on the benefits of adopting an attitude of gratitude.
He lists out 31 (!) but I have taken my top 10 favourites and listed them here:
- It makes us happier
- It makes others like us more
- It makes us healthier
- It strengthens our emotions, making us more resilient against stress
- It makes us more optimistic
- It makes us less self-centred
- It makes us feel good
- It strengthens relationships
- It improves our decision making process
- Basically we become nicer people over all and much more fun to be around!
So since all the reasons for WHY we should develop an attitude of gratitude is listed out in the article mentioned above, I thought it may be better if I instead focused this blog on HOW we can put this into practice in our everyday life.
I think developing a gratitude practice is a little like developing any other new practice / habit we want to bring in to our lives, because we feel it could be of benefit to our health / wellbeing / happiness. The key is: we simply have to remember to do it often enough till one day it become part of our everyday routine, just like brushing our teeth! Consistency is going to be key. And even if we miss a day or two, or three… as soon as we remember, we just begin again.
To be honest, even though I feel that developing an attitude of gratitude is important and perhaps one of the most powerful tools we can use to make inroads towards self-love and self-appreciation, along with the practice of self-compassion, I do not have a daily practice of it established myself (yet). I’m kind of still in the “remember-to-do-it” stage… This is why I will share with you three of the ways I’ve been using over the past few years to keep gratitude at the forefront of my life.
About two years ago I stumble across The Five Minute Journal, though not the cheapest of investments, this cleverly laid out journal is a great place to start if you want to commit yourself to cement a gratitude practice in your life.
It is a lovely hardback “book”, with no dates so you can pick it up at any time and start where ever you are. The journal is split in two halves, a five minute practice for the morning that consists of writing down three things that you are grateful for, three things that would make it a great day and one affirmation for the day. And then there’s a quick prompt to spend another five minutes at the end of the day to recap what was amazing that day, as well as what could have been done better.
This way of having a “script” or a structured outline makes it really easy to get into the practice of gratitude with a reflective angle. Reading these questions everyday, and then thoughtfully writing down the answers does make for good practice of developing our awareness for what is good in our lives already. Especially for those times when we may be preoccupied with all the things we want, but don’t have. Or when life is handing you lemons…
I was doing quite well at filling out my Five Minute Journal for about 2 months or so… Until what usually happens, my unstructured self got the upper hand. So last year I decided to try a different approach to my gratitude practice.
Enter the Gratitude Jar.
I got this idea from a friend who shared it on FB, and I think, she in turn had gotten it from someone else. This jar concept has been around awhile. It’s as simple as it sounds, and a little less structured so it does require that we remember to do it!
Take a large glass jar and then each and every time that you are grateful for something, then write it down on a piece of paper and then put it into your jar. At the end of the year, open your jar and go through all the blessings that you received. It does make for some inspiring reading.
This approach seems to suit me a little better, well as far as I remember to do it that is!
The third tool / approach that I’ve found as a path to develop gratitude and open the door to happiness, is to take some intentional moments, or breaths, to take in the beauty that is (always) all around us. This simple practice is very much on the lines of cultivating mindfulness, through basic awareness of just noticing things. To shift our attention to something in our physical reality, is such a simple yet effective way of anchoring the mind and the body in the present moment.
I’ve been doing this for some time now, especially if I catch myself feeling overwhelmed by the business of life and all that is on my to-do-list. Just to literally stay still for a tiny moment of time and allow my senses to open up to what surrounds me, can refresh and calm me no end. It is also much easier to do than it often is to find some time “sit down to meditate”.
What I didn’t know though is that there’s a practice that is called “The Ten Breath Practice”, which deepens this experience. My dear friend Jen Ardis (who’s not only a friend but also my collaborator for our Nutrition & Mindfulness Retreats that we are holding here in Fermoy) gifted me with the book that explains this simple yet powerful practice. The book is called Ten Breaths to Happiness, touching life in its fullness, by Glen Schneider.
The book explains the simple technique of how to with intent and purpose allow ourselves to fully take in the experience of something that we find beautiful. And how by doing this, can open up new neuronal pathways in the brain, paving way for more feelings of contentment and happiness. Sounds good to me! I particularly like the simplicity of this practice as well as it being such a practical and sensory experience.
I also had the pleasure of witnessing how this practice can enhance people’s lives when I sat in on one of Jen’s Mindful Selfcare classes the other week!
This practice works for even the busiest person. Even for those who like one of my client’s once when I suggested starting a gratitude practice replied immediately with the words “I’m too busy”. To be honest, her reply threw me a bit…
Though come to thinks of it… I have found myself thinking along the same lines too, like “Do I have time to stop and spend 10 breaths on enjoying this moment?”.
I remind myself that yes I do have 30 seconds or perhaps even a full minute to enjoy what is here and now.
Because what else is there?