Monday, May 14, 2012

Why Living a Life of Gratitude Can Make a Difference

“If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, ‘thank you,’ that would suffice.” 
Meister Eckhart

Many years ago Oprah Winfrey spoke about her gratitude journal on the Oprah Winfrey show.  She shared the deep effect writing in it had on her and her life.  Oprah said, at the end of each day she writes down the 5 things that she was most grateful for today.  She felt it was better to write in this gratitude journal at the end of the day because you would work harder all day long to find things, even the smallest things, during the day to be grateful for.   She challenged the audience and her devoted fans (me being one of them that day) to keep a daily gratitude journal.  I thought that was a great idea, but I didn't do it.  

Now don't get me wrong, I really did think it was a great idea.  And I do believe in the power of gratitude.  As a matter of fact, I believe I live in a constant state of gratitude each and every day.  If I say thank you once, I must say it about a thousand times a day.  I speak it out loud, I say it silently, I am mindful of it, I am grateful.  Therefore, I had myself convinced that I did not need to actually write any of those grateful thoughts down in a book!  I had it all in my mind, I was feeling it each and every day, wasn't that enough? 

Then one day, recently, I realized ...maybe it is not enough to just think it.  Maybe there would be a benefit to writing down my gratitude each day.  So, I tried it.  And I have to tell you in just a couple of weeks I think I am more focused, more energetic and more aware of doing the right things to be more positive.  Why?  Because the act of writing down why I am grateful every day helps to connect me to those feelings more.  And the simple fact that it is recorded in a journal allows me to revisit those previous feelings each day.  All of which makes me feel more and more grateful for each day and its blessings.  It is a very humbling feeling and it makes me very happy.  

Why should that be? Why should the simple act of thinking about who and what I’m grateful for and then writing it down make such a big difference in my life?
Just a few reasons:
  • Because it reminds you of the positive things in your life. It makes you happy about the people in your life, whether they’re loved ones or just a stranger you met who was kind to you in some way.
  • Because it turns bad things into good things. Having problems at work? Be grateful you have work. Be grateful you have challenges, and that life isn’t boring. Be grateful that you can learn from these challenges. Be thankful they make you a stronger person.
  • Because it reminds you of what’s important. It’s hard to complain about the little things when you give thanks that your children are alive and healthy. It’s hard to get stressed out over paying bills when you are grateful there is a roof over your head.
  • Because it reminds you to thank others. I’ll talk about this more below, but the simple act of saying “thank you” to someone can make a big difference in that person’s life. Calling them, emailing them, stopping by to say thank you … just taking that minute out of your life to tell them why you are grateful toward them is important to them. People like being appreciated for who they are and what they do. It costs you little, but makes someone else happy. And making someone else happy will make you happy.
What do I give thanks for, privately, in my little gratitude session? It varies every day.  Personally, I thank God first.  I thank Him for his blessings, his mercy and his direction in my life.  I am grateful for my loved ones.  My family and friends.  I am grateful to do what I love each and every day.  I am thankful for the people around me, especially my clients, my experiences.  Sometimes, I am just thankful for the good cup of coffee I had to start my day!  

How to Live a Life of Gratitude
The thing is, simple acts of gratitude don’t cost you much (especially once you get over the initial discomfort some people feel with thanking others). But they can make a huge difference.
If you’re interested in living a life of gratitude, here are my suggestions:
  • Morning gratitude session.  Before your feet even hit the floor ...take even just one minute each morning to give thanks, to whoever or whatever you’re grateful for. You don’t have to do anything, other than close your eyes and silently give thanks. This one act can make a huge difference in your day and in your life.
  • Say thank you. When someone does something nice for you, however small, try to remember to say thank you. And really mean it.
  • Call to say thanks. Sometimes you might think about something nice that someone did for you. Perhaps you remember during your gratitude session. When you do, pick up the phone and call the person, just to say thanks. Let them know what they did that you’re grateful for, and why you appreciate it. Takes a minute or two. If it’s too early to call, make a note to call later. Even better is telling them in person, if you happen to see them or if they’re on your route. Almost as good is a thank-you email — keep it short and sweet.
  • Give thanks for “negative” things in your life. There’s always two ways to look at something.  Many times when we think of something as negative — it’s stressful, harmful, sad, unfortunate, difficult.  And at the time, it might be just that.  However, I know (from experience) that the blessing often comes after the breaking.  Therefore, is it possible, that the same experience can then be looked at in a more positive way?  There is often a gift or a lesson that comes of it.  Be grateful to have had the opportunity to be changed or transformed.   Problems can be seen as opportunities to grow, to be creative and become stronger, wiser.
  • Keep a gratitude journal.  Choose a journal or notebook for the sole purpose of recording the 5 things that you were most grateful for each day.   Keep it on the table by the side of your bed and do this before you go to sleep.  You may have your best night's sleep!
Let me leave you with a prayer of gratitude that I’ve always found … well, perfect.  I shared this with my newsletter subscribers last November as a Thanksgiving wish and I know so many of you replied with a big "Thank You" for sharing!

Be Thankful
Be thankful that you don’t already have everything you desire,
If you did, what would there be to look forward to?
Be thankful when you don’t know something
For it gives you the opportunity to learn.
Be thankful for the difficult times.
During those times you grow.
Be thankful for your limitations
Because they give you opportunities for improvement.
Be thankful for each new challenge
Because it will build your strength and character.
Be thankful for your mistakes
They will teach you valuable lessons.
Be thankful when you’re tired and weary
Because it means you’ve made a difference.
It is easy to be thankful for the good things.
A life of rich fulfillment comes to those who are
also thankful for the setbacks.
GRATITUDE can turn a negative into a positive.
Find a way to be thankful for your troubles
and they can become your blessings.
~ Author Unknown ~

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