How Practicing Gratitude has Improved my Life

I realize it could seem a little predictable to write a post about gratitude the week of Thanksgiving. But the subject has been on my mind lately, mostly because I’m not very good at it.

Like I’ve mentioned in past posts, my mind can easily get caught up in negative thinking and worry. I’ve discovered that trying to focus on gratitude helps me combat that tendency as well improve my life in other ways. I’m convinced it will do the same for anyone who works at it.

Cuddling Sethy
A recent moment of gratitude – cuddling with Seth

My gratitude practice started a couple of months ago. I was going through a guided meditation series that focused on gratitude and one of the exercises involved writing down three things that you’re grateful for at the end of each day. I know it sounds really simple but it is really a powerful exercise. I haven’t been perfect at it but over the last couple of months it has become pretty regular practice and has made a positive impact on my life in  several ways.

Almost immediately I noticed myself physically feeling better. Worry and negativity don’t usually feel good but gratitude does. I don’t think they can exist at the same time, so by focusing on what we’re thankful for, we’re replacing bad physical feelings with good ones.

My mind feels more clear and alert. Negative thoughts tend to clutter our minds and bring us down but gratitude has a way of pushing that clutter away and bringing clarity. 90% of what we’re worried about or thinking negatively about isn’t true. So in essence when we focus on gratitude we are replacing lies with truth. That is bound to bring life into focus and help us pay attention to what it most important.

My perspective has changed. I have become more aware of how much time I used to spend entertaining negative thoughts. The more we focus on gratitude the more we’re aware when negativity creeps in and it becomes less of a habit to entertain it. I’ve also started to realized that in any situation we have the  choice of whether to focus on the positive or negative. I believe both options exist in most circumstances. I’ll be honest, there have been days where I didn’t think there was much to be grateful for and I didn’t want to try and come up with anything. But I’ve discovered there is always something and often it is the smallest and simplest things that come to mind first.

I now have a repository of gratitude to refer to when negativity creeps up and I’m tempted to focus on the down side of a situation. Looking at my gratitude list I realize how much I have to be thankful for and how much evidence I have that is contrary to many of the things I worry about.

Most importantly, gratitude has spilled over into other parts of my day and I find myself noticing things to be grateful for even when I’m not thinking about it. Weather it is just walking down the street and noticing the beauty in nature or finding the positive in a situation where in the past my immediate reaction my have been to focus on the negative. By practicing, gratitude has become a more natural part of my everyday experience.

This is just my story but I believe that anyone can benefit from a little more gratitude in their life. It may not be easy at first but with a little practice it makes a  big difference.