Gratitude in our daily lives.

Two psychologists, Michael McCollough of Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, and Robert Emmons of the University of California at Davis, wrote an article about an experiment they conducted on gratitude and its impact on well-being.

The results of the study indicated that daily gratitude exercises resulted in higher reported levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy. In addition, those in the gratitude group experienced less depression and stress, were more likely to help others, exercised more regularly, and made greater progress toward achieving personal goals.

What if one day you wake up and you had lost everything you care about; your home, your family, your job, your car….your ability to hear, your ability to walk/talk…. Then a stranger comes up to you and tells you that all this can be given back one at a time and you could choose one every month.

Do you think you would cherish them more with each month you got back? Would you not re-evaluate your life’s choices and make a few changes? Maybe appreciate small things, feel blessed? Have fewer arguments with your loved ones? Live each day like you would never see them again?

Living a life of gratitude requires that we begin getting joy from small things; smiling when the sun hits your face, smiling at strangers you meet on the street, saying thank you for even the smallest gestures, saying please when we ask for something etc. Dr. Emmons who has been studying gratitude for more than ten years and is considered an expert on the subject says in his book; Thanks!; How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier that practicing gratitude can increase your happiness levels by 25%!

The key word here is practice. We have to live gratitude daily for it to become second nature to us. Practice as they say makes perfect. Daily practices of gratitude will bring determination, optimism, alertness and energy into your life.

Each day before bed, write at least ten things you are grateful for, that you encountered in the day. Simple things like you were able to finish a task? Your colleague who was kind to you today? You were able to get your kids to school on time? Your car started? You got to work without a mishap? You’re grateful you have children?(Perhaps you overheard your colleague’s sad story of how they have been trying for a child and nothing yet)The list is really endless. This concept was made famous by Sarah Ban Breathnach’s book ‘ Simple Abundance Journal of Gratitude’

What usually happens is that when you start off, depending on your level of awareness of things around you, your list maybe short but as you continue each day, it gets longer and longer as you begin to notice things you did not before. In fact the best thing would be that throughout the day, you jot down those things as you go through your day then when you get home, you take them out first thing and compile them. Put them away into a folder. This is particularly important because on the days you get home feeling miserable - and things did not work out for you, you will take the folder, and go through them one by one. It serves as a reminder of what is going well in your life and therefore whatever happened not withstanding, your heart will feel encouraged and energized.

When you wake up also put down a list of things you are grateful for that morning; could be that you woke up! Again, put the list away in the above folder. Do not forget to date the list every day and even specify if morning or evening. Once in a while like a month, take them all out and read them as a reminder and a thanksgiving ritual every month.

When something negative happens, look for the good in it. I know – easier said than done? Believe you me, when you start looking at all your experiences as a lesson and a learning opportunity, you will stop being so mad at someone or something. You will in fact be the people most grouches at the office will not want to talk to because nothing ever seems to weigh you down. Of course there are people who are very negative and unpleasant to deal with so avoid them like the plague. Run for dear life!...Negativity is infectious!

Before long, going over the list will make you see how truly blessed and privileged you are, you will therefore start focusing on things that are working rather than dwelling on what is not working.