What are you thankful for? It is a commonly asked question this time of year with the holidays approaching. It is always great to stop and think about the gifts and blessings in your life but it seems that most people reserve gratitude for a few holidays or special occasions.
One of the greatest changes in my life occurred when I finally realized that I needed to make gratitude a habit. By transforming my attitude to one of thankfulness I realized that it opened up my mind to see opportunity where others couldn’t. Suddenly I could see the positive in a negative situation.
There are several major benefits to this way of thinking.
1. Negative situations don’t seem so devastating
Everybody knows at least one person who always creates a dramatic emotional response when things don’t go their way. By changing to a grateful mindset you can start to calm in the face of chaos and keep your cool when you know things aren’t going your way.
2. You start to notice all of the good things around you
I tend to have the bad habit of getting tunnel vision at times. With the various areas of life that require our focus (work, family, finances) it can blind us from what is really all around us. Most people never truly appreciate their health until it deteriorates or understand how much someone means to them until they are gone. Gratitude allows us to appreciate those things while we still have them.
3. You show your appreciation to others who then return the favor
The third benefit is that others start to notice your new attitude. When they do, they tend to reflect your appreciative mindset. If you thank someone for something kind that they did, they usually thank you for something you did. Plus they are more likely to do those same actions again.
While the benefits of grateful are fairly obvious, what isn’t obvious is how to create the habit of gratitude rather than reserving those thoughts for the end of November. Here are a few ways to extend gratitude throughout the year.
The first step is to identify how to change your mindset. When you notice yourself getting unhappy, what can you do to switch over to this mindset? Some people rely on exercise or reading motivational quotes. Others make lists of things that are going right in their lives or they find a way to thank someone for a recent favor.
The next step is to determine whether you want to rely on this technique when you get a trigger (bad day at work, negative comment from a friend, bad news from a family member etc) or you use this technique on a regular basis. This is the foundation of systems and habits. How can you make sure that every time you have a specific trigger (in this case unhappiness or a sense of entitlement) you do one of the methods of changing your mindset to gratitude? Or how can you make sure that every day you wake up and do something to create this positive attitude? Whether you rely on a trigger or set up a schedule is up to you.
Without this step, gratitude becomes a buzz word and an easy topic for motivational speakers but it provides us with zero follow through. This is why so many times we attend a seminar to recharge but soon fall back to our old ways. We didn’t effectively create a new system or habit to follow through.
The third step is to monitor and improve the system. Nothing lasts forever and we may need to experiment with various techniques and methods of establishing the habit before we see success. But if you are able to systematize this mindset, then you can start to gain the benefits of gratitude throughout the year.
Taking the approach of incorporating gratitude into your systems and habits is very powerful. By doing this you will unlock all of the benefits that thankfulness provides. You will also create a new process that you can use to develop other characteristics that you feel are beneficial.