“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill
Gratitude. We know we should acknowledge the gifts we have in life and share our appreciation of others, and sometimes we don’t.
We’re too busy and can’t be bothered; it’s awkward or time consuming; or it may feel hollow, fake or cliched to try to make lists, count blessings or prepare route speeches for holiday meals.
(Heck, I even initially struggled finding anything new to say on this topic myself, and I’m a believer!)
Expressing gratitude is a muscle that we have to exercise in order for it to register in ourselves or with others. Our brains are naturally wired for fear and survival, so we tend to notice the difficult and hard stuff in life more easily. Not that that’s all bad: it’s what kept us from being eaten by the saber tooth tigers!
Research tells us that we need a 3:1 (or some say 5:1) ratio of positive to negative feedback to have the positive stuff even stick in our heads.
With practice, noticing the positive and expressing our gratitude can become a strength and skill that you can use, both for your own well-being as well as a way to appreciate and develop others around you.
Here’s how to create an attitude of gratitude throughout the year:
1) Practice. Whether through a gratitude journal, a daily meditation, or mentally noticing it, try finding at least one person, experience or blessing you can be grateful for daily. Writing down what you are grateful for can over time help you see patterns and bigger trends that are present as well.
2) “This is the good times”: After going through a really difficult time in my own life, one day I realized that we weren’t in crisis anymore, and that things were going actually pretty well. I said to my husband, “You know, I think this is one of the good times.” And the phrase stuck – we use it now to help us notice and appreciate what is happening in the present moment, vs. dreading an uncertain future or regretting some past experience.
3) “One good thing”: A dinner time ritual my family has is to share one “good thing” that happened in each of our days. I’ve heard other people express this practice as “roses and thorns”: sharing one good thing (rose), one frustration (thorn). Sharing our “roses”/good things helps cultivate some appreciation and gratitude for the small daily experiences in our lives.
4) Notice and savor beauty around you: being outside in nature, listening to music, experiencing art can help you connect with a bigger sense of wonder beyond your own daily experience.
5) Share the wealth: share what you are grateful for with the people around you. Noticing and specifically expressing what you are grateful for in other people strengthens connections, fosters stronger relationships and gives other important positive feedback to others about their impact.
Now it’s your turn!
In the Comments below, share your best tips for cultivating gratitude.
What difference does it make in your life and work when you express gratitude?
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