Why Do We Practice Gratitude?
The idea of gratitude isn’t a new one – you can find the concept in the oldest of the world’s religions. That’s because gratitude is a transformative practice that takes the focus off of your own personal needs and let’s you instead look at the needs of the world around you. There may be no greater method of achieving a harmonious life than to be appreciative of what you have and have that “attitude of gratitude” that so many only have right around the holidays! Here’s why:
What Is the Cornerstone of Gratitude?
In order to practice the art of gratitude, one must first be content with what they have in life. As Paul the Apostle once wrote, he learned that there will be times of sufficiency and times when there are dark valleys that seem inescapable. Rather than dwell in the good and fight hard to get out of the bad, he learned to be content with whatever his circumstances happened to be. In that, he was able to establish a lifestyle of gratitude.
Why is contentment the cornerstone of gratitude? Because without contentment, we are always striving to have more. To be better. To accumulate more things. We do this because we have this inner urge to be satisfied. We think that if we get just one more thing, or take one more career step, or achieve just one more success, we can finally be grateful and happy… except no one ever is. There’s always something else on the horizon!
With contentment, you’re not looking to the horizon – you’re living in the moment.
How Can Gratitude Be Practiced Daily?
The easiest way to eliminate gratitude from one’s life is to be judgmental of yourself and of others. It could be as simple as coveting that brand new 60” LCD your co-worker is talking about buying in the break room. It could be more complicated as you may look at someone else’s circumstances and feel inferior to them. When you shift your focus away from these negative things toward contentment and then gratitude, some amazing changes happen within your body:
- your brain begins to become more balanced;
- your heartbeat becomes stable and rhythmic; and
- your body creates biochemical changes throughout to create a happier you.
In other words, stress is reduced when you focus on being grateful now in whatever your circumstances may be. Research even shows that a regular practice of gratitude can help a student’s grades?
Where Do You Get Started With Personal Gratitude?
Becoming content in whatever circumstances you find yourself in can be difficult. Life can throw each of us a nasty curveball that seems impossible to hit! When that happens, there are still things to be grateful about in life: a friend who is always there for you, that triple chocolate fudge ice cream in the freezer that’s waiting for you, the smile of a child, or even just the warm sunshine on your face.
By focusing on the little moments and be grateful about them, gratitude in the larger things will naturally flow from you as well. Take a breath, find something to be grateful about right now, and begin the process of repairing, restoring, and harmonizing your universe.