Gratitude. A concept we are all too familiar with but often take for granted. Gratitude. A nine-letter word we know the meaning of but often have difficulty performing. Gratitude – not just an act, but rather an attitude or a lifestyle.
Given the busyness of life, we can often lose sight of the things that matter most: love, family, connection, fulfillment, meaning and purpose, to name a few. Few of us would argue about the importance of these virtues. Likewise, few people would say that gratitude is not essential for bettering our relationships, with God, others, or the universe. However, I also posit that gratitude is much more than that. Gratitude is a foundational attitude that can help us to maintain our focus on those things that are most important to us. It can promote inner peace and help us better align ourselves with our goals and values. It can not only promote our psychological wellbeing, but our emotional, social, spiritual, physical and financial wellbeing as well.
Gratitude can be transformational. So, if you are interested in beginning (or continuing) your journey of gratitude, here are nine suggestions for how you can cultivate a gratitude lifestyle.
1. Make a morning routine of prayer and mindfulness. Take some uninterrupted time every morning to express thanks for your blessings, privileges, opportunities, and resources that keep you going every day. Whether you are living through a time of abundance or a period of scarcity, there are always things to be grateful for. Take a moment to acknowledge those fortunes.
2. Begin a journal for highlighting lessons and “bright sides.” On a daily basis we experience ups and downs, highs and lows; but our minds have a natural tendency to focus more on the bad than the good (google “negative bias”). So, at the end of a tough day, it can be really helpful to write down what you think your trials and hardships may be teaching you about yourself, life, and your relationships; the coping skills that are being strengthened amid the storms you are weathering, and ways you have grown in your ability to withstand challenges.
3. Communicate to others about they ways they have enriched your life. People in your life – loved ones, colleagues, mentors, friends, parents – deserve to know how much their contributions to your life mean to you. After all, they have put out their time, energy, and effort to help make your life easier in some way and that time and effort comes at a cost to them. Therefore, make it a practice to recognise their presence and input in your life at a healthy frequency.
4. Engage in acts of paying it forward. Kinds acts shown in good faith toward strangers or others you do not have a transactional or give-and-take relationship with can be very impactful and can cause a ripple effect. I remember once being at a drive-thru and, after placing my order at the intercom, the customer service rep told me that the person in the car ahead of me had paid for my meal as a part of their “pay it forward” initiative. I remember thinking, how incredibly kind of them. Since then, I’ve made an effort to pay it forward.
5. Seek out opportunities to volunteer and give back. One of the biggest ways you can foster an attitude of gratitude is in finding ways to give or your time and energy for free to help enrich the lives of others, especially those less fortunate. Not only do you get to do a good deed that will have a significant impact on someone else, but you also get to experience the enrichment and joy that comes with giving back.
6. Be kind to your body. At this point, with all the information out there, this should go without saying. Yet, given our often busy lives, we still mistreat our bodies through poor sleeping habits, a lack of exercise, and the unhealthy consumption of certain foods and drinks. Establishing healthier patterns in these areas is a way to show self-gratitude and appreciation to the body that labours for you, every single day.
7. Show gratitude to your loves ones in their love language. Acts of service, gift-giving, words of affirmation, quality time, and physical touch are widely accepted as the five languages of love (google “Gary Chapman, 5 Love Languages”). In showing appreciation to others, if you want to do it in a way that is truly memorable, do it in their love language. If he wants quality time, spend significant, uninterrupted time with him where he gets your full attention. She likes acts of service? Surprise her by doing the chores before she gets home.
8. Do not take for granted the opportunities you have been favoured with. That tertiary-level degree you attained with full sponsorship from your state/nation’s government; the job you were hired for over other qualified candidates; the access you have to influential people – acknowledge the favour you have been given in life. You have been blessed in ways that others can only dream of, so take the time to acknowledge that and use your position of privilege to help others.
9. Surround yourself with people who exude a spirit of gratitude. When you surround yourself with persons who embody this gratitude mindset, that energy rubs off on you. Their frequent expressions and displays of gratitude encourages you to do the same. Get connected with persons and communities that share the same spirit of gratitude that you are trying to cultivate in your life. You will be amazed at how much their presence in your life will promote your own spirit of appreciation.
Making gratitude a part of your everyday life has the potential to increase your quality of life significantly. You will remain in a mindset where you are forever seeing your blessings, even during periods of hardship and lack. Do not let the busyness of life sidetrack you from embracing the fullness of life inherent to this gratitude lifestyle. Your best and highest quality of life awaits you. Step into it.
Love and Regards,
Reycine Mc Kenzie, MSc.
Founder and Clinical Psychotherapist at
UPWARD Counselling and Psychological Services