Gratitude is a powerful tool if you want to experience a happier, more contented life. Some folks dismiss gratitude, because they think it is necessary to believe in a sacred being to be grateful. But it is possible just to be grateful, perhaps to the Universe, or to no one in particular. It’s an attitude — a positive response to life.
Most of us find that our minds much more easily focus on the negative than on the positive. Evolutionary psychology informs us that our negativity bias is a leftover inheritance from early ancestors who lived in a very different world. In their world, a negativity bias was a life-preserving necessity of staying focused on dangers. In today’s world, it is more likely to be a cause of stress and anxiety that is more life diminishing than life preserving.
As we each find this negativity bias showing up in our own thinking, it’s important to not blame ourselves. We live in a world that focuses largely on the negative. “If it bleeds, it leads,” seems to be the guiding principle behind most media stories and much online chatter.
It can take some intentional work pushing ourselves toward more positivity, but what a payoff when we do this. More positivity results in an immediate uplift of our outlook, our response to others, our experience of life.
One of the most consistently effective pathways toward positivity is embracing gratitude. Pretending there are not lots of unpleasant, unwanted conditions in our lives and world will not help, but we can pause to focus for at least a moment exclusively on the good that is also present.
A regularly practiced “attitude of gratitude” can transform our life experience. People who have learned to engage in a regular gratitude practice (whether hourly, daily, or even just weekly) often report that it has played a pivotal role in changing their lives for the better.
A gratitude practice can take many different forms. Some people, start each day anticipating with gratitude the opportunities the new day offers. Others recall events at the end of the day through the lens of gratitude and may write those thoughts in a Gratitude Journal. Most effective can be pausing as often as possible throughout the day to remind ourselves to be grateful for the gifts in our lives. Many find their positivity and gratitude are increased if they limit the amount of media they take in.
Your own gratitude practice can take whatever form works for you. The more you practice, the more deeply you will establish a habit of automatically noticing the good in your life. It is even possible to be grateful for challenges that arise, since it is through challenges that we learn and grow! There are so many things to be grateful for in our lives, if we just pause to notice!
An ancient monk reportedly suggested to a disciple that many times a day he thoughtfully repeat to himself, “Thanks for everything. I have no complaint whatsoever.” That may seem extreme, but moving in that direction can have a very positive effect on our attitude and on our actual experience.