Would you like to have a little more equanimity and happiness in your life? If your answer is yes, cultivating a little bit more gratitude will get you there. So, buckle up and read on.
Firstly, gratitude is not automatic! Our primitive lizard brain is constantly on the lookout for dangers. So even when things are brilliant, the lizard part of the ancient brain worries that the happy moment won’t last.
“I am too fat…I can’t get anything done…why did I get sick? I am just not worthy…I am stupid…, etc.”
Does any of it sound familiar? As we tend to focus on the negative aspects of our life situations, it is easy to become disillusioned. We stop counting our blessings when the universe doesn’t revolve around us. So, we suffer. We complain and get stuck in our daily existence. The default mode network (1) is set to run on negative frequency waves, and as we think negative thoughts, we bring more darkness into our minds, bodies, and lives.
Gratitude, however, can relieve us from endless wants and worries of our own life’s drama. Cultivating gratitude will help us to feel and to be “lucky.” As a result, we can have a more refined appreciation for the nature of life. Gratitude can soften our hearts and build our capacity for forgiveness. Gratitude creates the clarity of mind necessary for humanity’s evolution.
Gratitude will boost your mood, life satisfaction, and overall wellness. According to Dr. Glenn Fox(2), one of the world’s leading experts in the neuroscience of gratitude, “The academic definition of gratitude is the feeling we can have when we receive something that comes from some effort or cost to someone, and that fulfills a need for us.” Gratitude can help us to unlock creativity. You can listen to Steven Kotler, Rian Doris, Fox, and Kaufman have an illuminating conversation(3) that covers the neuroscience of creativity, how gratitude impacts the brain, and how it can boost your creativity and level of baseline gratitude.
So, scientific studies have shown that gratitude can:
- Improve sleep.
- Improve relationships.
- Make you healthier.
- Make you happier.
Secondly, it is important to note that gratitude is not automatic. We can, however, build gratitude muscle just like any other muscle by working it out with some simple actions. Of course, it might be challenging at times, but it’s worth the effort!
Five Actions To Cultivate Gratitude.
1) Action #1: Take Small Steps Right Now.
To do: Pause right now for a few seconds and say “thank you” three times before your next to-do. Feel the gratitude. Allow yourself to be fully present. You can do it right before your next meal or a phone call. Even you have to join a stupid work meeting, pause for a second, and say “thank you.” Afterward, take a mental or an actual note on how you feel.
To do: Say, “thank you” for water next time you wash your hands. Pause and feel the gratitude for water. Do this several times throughout the day.
2) Action #2: Start Gratitude Journal.
To do: Take a piece of paper and write down five things you’re grateful for right now. Don’t fuss around too much. Just write anything that comes to mind.
I keep a daily gratitude log using a Microsoft Spreadsheet. I am amazed how it instantly puts things in perspective and boosts my mood. You can use a simple notepad, share your comments here or use Google documents.
As a last resort, if nothing comes to your mind, ask yourself these questions:
- Think of a person (anyone at any time) who helped you?
- Which of your character traits are you most grateful for?
- Which of your physical attributes are you most grateful for?
- For which aspect of your health are you the most grateful?
3) Action #3: See an Opportunity in Every Situation.
To do: Think of a challenging situation and write one thing you are thankful for.
I absolutely love working at SOFLY. However, for many years, SOFLY was not generating enough income to support my lifestyle. So, I worked at a job that allowed me to build my business. The job I didn’t love, the job that was hard but needed to be done. So, my primary role was to solve problems, deal with unhappy customers, or find someone who could do it. My self-talk focused on how many opportunities I have to learn and how much money I can make. It was not always easy. But I am forever grateful to all my day jobs.
4) Action #4: Express Gratitude to Others.
Remember, nothing lasts forever. So make that phone call you are planning to make when you have time, especially if anyone comes to your mind while you are reading this. Then, share a specific example of something that person did for you and how it made a difference in your life. I tend to write letters to all musicians, writers, my mom all the time. Please don’t do it for them to thank you back. Expect nothing in return. Do it because someone made you smile. What do you have to lose? I wrote a letter to Trey Anastasio, Tim Ferris, David Sinclair, and a few dead authors. Of course, don’t forget people close to you.
5) Action #5: Practice Contentment.
One of the eight limbs of Astanga yoga is contentment. In Sutra II.42, Patanjali explains contentment as an invitation to cultivate positive thinking, acceptance, and a humble and serene satisfaction. From contentment arises unparalleled happiness. It is a positive and dynamic asset.
However, being content is not the same as being passive.
For example, when we moved to Colorado, my husband and I still lived in New York City. We were both content and grateful for the city experiences. But, we didn’t spend the rest of our lives in the city. So, we worked hard to move. However, we found joy in our current situation, making the most of every day as we prepared for the change. As many of you can relate, a big move can be a very stressful affair. But, being content with the experience allowed us to make a smoother move.
What are you grateful for?
How do you cultivate gratitude in your daily life?