Everyone’s lives are busy. Between jobs, hobbies, families, and kids, most of us struggle to find time in each day for ourselves. We may make space here or there during the week to unwind, but after observing many of my peers and colleagues lifestyles, I have noticed most of us do not practice gratitude nearly as much as we should. This isn’t to say we aren’t thankful for things. Personally, I think of gratitude as recognition. As I have become more aware of myself and my actions, when I have not recognized something, and appreciated it, whether it be an object, a person, feeling, or idea, I tend to lose it in one aspect or another. I’m sure many can agree this has happened with them as well.
Our parents always taught us that saying “thank you” was proper etiquette. I believe this phrase is something not just meant for people who assist us in one way or another, but for small things as well. When you get all green lights driving to work, say thank you. This gratitude doesn’t have to be towards anything, nor does it have to be elaborate. When you work industriously and get a promotion, take a moment to be thankful for the opportunity.
Often times we find ourselves stuck in a cycle of negativity, whether it be around our job, our relationship with someone, our bank account, or something else. I have noticed that once you associate a negative vibration with that object or idea, you attract further negativity. An excellent way to stop this pattern and reverse it is to replace those vibrations with those of gratitude. Although you may not have answers or solutions, you can be grateful for the ability to find them and know they will come. You can open your mind and be grateful for the ability to recognize when you are stuck in a loop. You can see more and more details, big or small, that you are lucky to have in your life. Once you stop the tumbling snowball effect your mind tends to create, you can reverse things 180 degrees.
One of my colleagues’ perspectives on gratitude hit home for me: “Practicing gratitude comes from what I use as a mindful meditation; to think about all you have, where it came from, and what it means to you. There is no sense in worrying about what you do not have because in reality it is not even there. Gratitude helps you focus on being in the moment and loving everything presently surrounding you because this reality is all there truly is.”
And that is it, isn’t it? Your reality is what you make it; once you become thankful for your surrounding resources and support systems, blessings and all, you allow yourself to consistently be overflowing with these gifts. When you practice this recognition, you feel better too. It has been proven.
Robert Emmons is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Davis, and the founding editor-in-chief of The Journal of Positive Psychology. He has written entire books on gratitude and how it affects us. In his studies, he has discovered a large handful of differences with individuals who were instructed to keep “gratitude journals” to which they documented daily “thanks.” Among the physical, psychological, and social effects, Emmons results showed that people had less physical pain, slept more, and had more motivation to exercise and be fit. People also reported higher mood levels and energy levels, as well as feeling more outgoing, compassionate, generous, etc. It truly is proven that gratitude improves our lives in more than one way.
Gratitude is also not just about being thankful for what you have or what you are receiving. One thing that stood out from what Emmons wrote on gratitude for The Greater Good was as follows: “We can appreciate positive traits in ourselves, but I think true gratitude involves a humble dependence on others: We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.” I believe this is important because it allows us to pop the bubble in our minds where we disconnect with others as we look at our own blessings. Although we would never receive the gifts of this universe without deserving them personally, we also are a part of a greater scheme of things in which our vibrations are reflected in our interactions with others. So long as we try to give back to others as much as we can, we will find that others, in turn, give back to us. You can call this karma, paying it forward, or just how things work. Nonetheless, the pattern is evident. Once you recognize this, you will find it proving itself time and time again. Once you follow this flow of things with a greater sense of peace and contentment, you will notice more and more positivity surrounding you until you have nothing else you can see, and nothing but gratitude and joy to be felt.