Our outlook is a determining factor in how we relate to others and the world around us.
When we are discouraged and things aren’t going our way, it’s easy to be self-centered and emotionally inaccessible. This takes a toll on our productivity and our relationships. Based on our personality type, some of us are natural optimists and others of us are natural pessimists. Whether you’re a glass half-full or glass half-empty type, it’s important to understand that the proverbial glass is refillable. Your outlook is completely within your control. How then do we refill our glass?
Psychologists have long touted the importance of gratitude in changing one’s attitude. According to Dr. Robert Emmons, gratitude affects more than just our attitude. It has the ability to dramatically impact our health and well-being. In his tests, he requires people of all ages to keep gratitude journals in which they write down things they are grateful for every day. The results of these tests are always overwhelmingly positive.
People who mindfully practice gratitude on a daily basis enjoy many benefits. Physical benefits include better sleep, stronger immune systems, lower blood pressure, and fewer aches and pains. Emotionally, they experience more joy and other positive emotions, a bent toward optimism, and a feeling of alertness. These benefits naturally result in people interacting with those around them in a way that is more generous, more forgiving, and less isolating and lonely.
There are many ways we can make gratitude part of our daily routine.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
This habit is a popular one and will look different for everyone. You can keep a journal on your nightstand and jot down a few things you’re grateful for before you go to bed. You can carry your journal with you and write things down throughout the day. There are even gratitude journal apps you can install on your phone! Check out Attitudes of Gratitude Journal for Android or Gratitude Journal 365 for the iPhone.
2. Surround yourself with grateful people.
When trying to build a new habit, it’s always a good idea to surround yourself with people of similar goals. You can get some friends together and email or text one another a gratitude list every day. Try sharing what you’re grateful for over lunch or coffee. When you’re having a difficult time, reach out to them for help finding something to be grateful for. Surrounding yourself with grateful people will help you stay accountable to developing a habit of gratitude.
3. Try meditation.
Meditation is a great tool for a number of different things, and gratitude is no exception. Dr. Randy Kamen recommends practicing gratitude meditation in the following way:
- Get into a comfortable seated position.
- Relax with eyes closed and feel grounded seated in your chair.
- Take a few abdominal breaths, relaxing the mind and body.
- When relaxed we are most open to suggestions.
- Think about “What am I really grateful for?”
- Take whatever comes to mind first and build on that thought.
- Expand upon the story of this positive experience or memory.
- Savor this experience and allow it to sink into the recesses of mind and body.
- Intensify this feeling even further by vividly visualizing this memory.
- Keep that experience in mind longer than usual to deeply embed positivity into the brain.
- Continue building a repertoire of positive experiences.
4. Set reminders.
Do you find yourself forgetting to practice gratitude? Schedule it into your day like you do any other important item. Set an alarm on your phone to remind you, or establish a time daily in which you can mindfully practice gratitude in whichever way you prefer.
5. Turn the tables.
Negative things happen. That’s life. The beauty of practicing gratitude is that it allows us to search for the positive in every situation. We can take away the power negative things have over our mood and attitude when we decide to find something to be grateful for in them. This isn’t to say we should deny the difficulties or problems in our lives, but rather we should choose to focus on the good things in our lives instead. Next time something discouraging or problematic happens, consciously look for reasons to be grateful in that situation and see how it impacts your outlook.
This week, choose one of these methods and practice it every day. Find the method that works for you and make it part of your life. It will inevitably improve your attitude, your health, and your relationships!