Gratitude is the Easiest Way to Feel Better Right Now. Here’s How to Make it a Habit
“Gratitude turns what we have into enough.” -Melody Beattie
Gratitude is like the North Star to happiness. It can wipe out anger at a moments notice, and help you CTFO when nothing seems to be going right.
If you want to be happy, you have to be grateful. It is one of the most valuable tools we have, and when practiced regularly, will train your brain to see the good, realize how privileged you are, and (for the most part) stop zooming in on everything that’s not exactly as we want it to be. Plus, it’s free.
Gratitude allows us to just relax and enjoy the present moment exactly as it is, without needing anything to change.
See the Difference
If you aren’t satisfied with what is, you are essentially cock-blocking good feelings and training your brain to focus on what’s wrong. There’s nothing wrong with seeking change or improvement, or even venting, but your sense of wellbeing would seriously improve if you start a gratitude journal, or practice gratitude in a tangible way on a daily basis.
Harvard University looked at the positive effects gratitude has on people’s productivity, health, and happiness levels. One study found gratitude not only helped people feel happier, but it resulted in fewer doctors visits and more motivation to exercise.
When we feel good from appreciating what we have, who we are, the people and beauty and magnificence around us, we attract more to be grateful for, because we train our brains to see more blessings. In general, we find what we are looking for and expecting. When we can be grateful for what we have, our brains are primed to look for and accept opportunities. If we’re only focused on what’s going wrong, we might miss them.
You can train (or continue to train) your brain to see everything that’s wrong around you, and you’ll come up with an endless list of things that are wrong, bumming yourself out all day, finding more things to complain about, or you can train your brain to see the things going well, and to sniff out opportunities.
Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes life is a real shit show. I’m not saying you have to ignore when bad things happen and live in denial, but even in those moments of turmoil, when you’re wondering if life will ever feel normal again, practicing gratitude can help calm your nervous system, gain perspective, and remember that some things are going right.
It’s in the Simplicity
A blissful moment doesn’t require that much if we stop and pay attention. Advertisers convince us we need a four star hotel, a hot lover, a perfect body, and a diamond to be happy, and while that sounds like an awesome combo, the truth is we can find bliss in simplicity just as well, whether it’s a delicious cup of coffee while still snuggled up in bed, a gorgeous sunset enjoyed with someone you love, freshly laundered sheets, or a nourishing, home cooked meal.
Choose Your Easy
It’s easy to get stuck in the habit of always focusing on our problems. It’s understandable, too. We want to solve our problems, and it seems logical that ruminating on them will eventually lead us to a solution, but when we do this, we’re training our brains to find faults, road blocks, and excuses. We risk missing out on these simple, blissful moments that make up our lives.
It’s also easy to make gratitude a habit instead. Write down 3–10 things you are grateful for every single morning. If you fill out a whole page, that’s even better. You can also make a note in your Notes app, record it as a voice memo, or take turns saying what you’re grateful for with your partner. In turn, you’ll get more attuned to seeing the good.
Choose your version of easy.
Gratitude Turns the Ordinary into Extraordinary
A beach vacation, a killer outfit, falling in love, a five course meal- those things are wonderful, too, but true gratitude for everything in our lives gives us the gift of alchemizing the ordinary and making it feel extraordinary.
Instead of always waiting for more luxury, or putting our happiness in some potential future fulfillment, learn to feel into what is luxurious around you. Learn to fully appreciate what a privilege it is to have enough to eat, to be able to decorate your space the way you like, to have people or pets you love, good health, art on your walls, the ability to choose how you want to dress, and the time and desire to read, learn, and grow.
Your Gratitude Lives in the Now, Not in the Next Thing
Have you ever psyched yourself up about something like, say, purchasing a new pair of shoes? You order them online and you’re convinced they’re going to give you the boost of happiness you crave. You excitedly wait for them to be delivered.
Then you get the shoes, and maybe, they don’t look exactly like the picture, or they’re not as comfortable as you imagined. Or, perhaps they’re everything you wanted but the newness wears off and you’re back where you started, perhaps continuing to look for happiness in the next purchase, person, or payday.
Gratitude is always accessible right here, right now.
Lean Into the Enoughness of Now
It’s ok to want more. It’s human, and it helps us strive and grow, but when the wanting overshadows the having, we can create our own scarcity and sadness. If we don’t learn to appreciate what we have, nothing will ever be enough, no matter how much we accumulate, because we simply haven’t learned to appreciate.
Exercise: make a gratitude list every day, ideally in the morning to get the ball rolling on seeing the good. Pay attention to how your life and mood changes as you make gratitude a priority. When you make your lists, really sit with the feeling of gratitude, be present, and let it sink in. Allow yourself to feel the emotion of gratitude.
Try to get specific, too, and go beyond “My job, my house, my partner.” While it’s wonderful to be grateful for those things, and they are part of my lists often, the more specific you can get, the better you will feel, and the stronger your mind will become at finding the good in all situations. Over time, you’ll be able to access gratitude to reshape the way you think and experience life.
Experiencing gratitude is like experiencing a a coral reef from the beach versus seeing it up closewith snorkeling gear. From the beach, it’s pretty, but blurry. Once you put on the snorkel gear, though, swim out and see below the surface, you realize just how vivid it is out there; teeming with life, fish and anemones in every color, the sun casting it’s rays through the water, fish glittering by like show girls, and sea flowers blooming in your favorite color.
Put on your snorkel gear and go for a swim. What are you grateful for?