I read an excellent article by Dr. Mercola on gratitude today. Read the entire article here.
I am including " A Dozen Practical Strategies to Build and Strengthen Gratitude
" listed in the article because I believe these are excellent suggestions to help us change our attitude into an attitude of gratitude.
Keep a gratitude journal
Each day, or on set days each week, write down everything you're grateful for, and make an effort to really feel the positivity. While you can certainly buy a nice diary specifically for this purpose, you could simply make a notation in your daily calendar. Alternatively, download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.
Here are a few tips found in "The Little Book of Gratitude," by Robert Emmons which were included in the article, to consider as you journal: Focus on the benevolence of other people. Doing so will increase your sense of being supported by life and decrease unnecessary anxiety. Also, focus on what you have received rather than what's been withheld. "The 'surplus' mode will increase our feelings of worth; the 'deficit' mode will lead us to think how incomplete our life is," Emmons says.
Lastly, avoid comparing yourself to people you perceive to have more advantages.
Doing so will only erode your sense of security. As Emmons notes, "Wanting more is related to increased anxiety and unhappiness. A healthier comparison is to contemplate what life would be like without a pleasure that you now enjoy … Gratitude buffers you from emotions that drive anxiety. You cannot be grateful and envious, or grateful while harboring regrets.”
Write thank-you notes
"When thanking someone who has done something for you, whether large or small, be specific, comment on the effort it has taken, and the cost, and keep the focus on that person," Emmons suggests. "For example, 'Thank you for bringing me my tea in bed. I really appreciate you getting up early each day. You're so thoughtful.' The key to effectiveness is to achieve some separation between the kind act and your expression.”
This year, make it a point to write thank-you notes or letters in response to each gift or kind act — or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life. To get you started, consider practicing mindful thank yous for seven days straight.
Say grace at each meal
Adopting the ritual of saying grace at each meal is a great way to flex your gratitude muscle on a daily basis, and will also foster a deeper connection to your food. While this can be a perfect opportunity to honor a spiritual connection with the divine, you don't have to turn it into a religious speech if you don't want to. You could simply say, "I am grateful for this food, and appreciate all the time and hard work that went into its production, transportation and preparation.”
Let go of negativity by changing your perception
Disappointment — especially if you're frequently struggling with things "not going your way" — can be a major source of stress, which is known to have far-reaching effects on your health and longevity. In fact, centenarians overwhelmingly cite stress as the most important thing to avoid if you want to live a long and healthy life.
Since stress is virtually unavoidable, the key is to develop and strengthen your ability to manage your stress so that it doesn't wear you down over time. Rather than dwelling on negative events, most centenarians figured out how to let things go, and you can do that too. It takes practice though. It's a skill that must be honed daily, or however often you're triggered.
A foundational principle to let go of negativity is the realization that the way you feel has little to do with the event itself, and everything to do with your perception of it. Wisdom of the ancients dictate that events are neither good nor bad in and of themselves. It is your belief about the event that upsets you, not the fact that it happened.
As noted by Ryan Holiday, author of "The Daily Stoic: 366 Meditations on Wisdom, Perseverance, and the Art of Living, The Stoics are saying, 'This happened to me,' is not the same as, 'This happened to me and that's bad.' They're saying if you stop at the first part, you will be much more resilient and much more able to make some good out of anything that happens.”
Listen to your own advice
Another potent technique that can increase your positive-to-negative emotion ratio is to ask yourself, "What would I recommend if this happened to someone else?" and then follow your own advice.
Dan Ariely, a professor at Duke University and author of "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions," explains that the reason this technique — which he calls "taking the outside perspective" — works so well is because when we make recommendations to others, we don't take our own current state of mind and emotions into account.
We're distanced emotionally from an event that happens to someone else, and that distance allows us to make saner, more reasonable decisions.
Be mindful of your nonverbal actions
Smiling and hugging are both ways of expressing gratitude, encouragement, excitement, empathy and support. These physical actions also help strengthen your inner experience of positive emotions.
Research27 shows that using "other-praising" phrases are far more effective than "self-beneficial" phrases. For example, praising a partner saying, "thank you for going out of your way to do this," is more powerful than a compliment framed in terms of how you benefited, such as "it makes me happy when you do that."
The former resulted in the partner feeling happier and more loving toward the person giving the praise. Also, be mindful of your delivery — say it like you mean it. Establishing eye contact is another tactic that helps you show your sincerity.
Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude. Practicing "mindfulness" means that you're actively paying attention to the moment you're in right now. A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you're grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze or a lovely memory.
Create a nightly gratitude ritual
One suggestion is to create a gratitude jar, into which the entire family can add notes of gratitude on a daily basis. Any jar or container will do. Simply write a quick note on a small slip of paper and put it into the jar. Some make an annual (or biannual or even monthly) event out of going through the whole jar, reading each slip out loud.
If you have young children, a lovely ritual suggested by Dr. Alison Chen in a Huffington Post article is to create a bedtime routine that involves stating what you're grateful for out loud.
Spend money on activities instead of things
According to recent research, spending money on experiences not only generates more gratitude than material consumption, it also motivates greater generosity. As noted by co-author Amit Kumar, postdoctoral research fellow at the University of Chicago, "People feel fortunate, and because it's a diffuse, untargeted type of gratitude, they're motivated to give back to people in general.”
Embrace the idea of having "enough"
According to many who have embraced a more minimalist lifestyle, the key to happiness is learning to appreciate and be grateful for having "enough." The average credit card debt for Americans who carry a balance is $16,000. People with a negative net worth or a net worth of zero carry an average of $10,300 in credit card debt. Meanwhile, financial hardship and work stress are two significant contributors to depression and anxiety.
The answer is to buy less and appreciate more. Instead of trying to keep up with the Joneses, practice being grateful for the things you already have, and release yourself from the iron-grip of advertising, which tells you there's lack in your life.
Many who have adopted the minimalist lifestyle claim they've been able to reduce the amount of time they have to work to pay their bills, freeing up time for volunteer work, creative pursuits and taking care of their personal health, thereby dramatically raising their happiness and life satisfaction.
The key here is deciding what "enough" is. Consumption itself is not the problem; unchecked and unnecessary shopping is.
It's like being on a hamster wheel — you keep shopping, thinking happiness and life satisfaction will come with it. Yet it never does. Many times, accumulation of material goods is a symptom that you may be trying to fill a void in your life, yet that void can never be filled by material things.
More often than not, the void is silently asking for more love, personal connection, or experiences that bring purpose and passionate engagement. So, make an effort to identify your real, authentic emotional and spiritual needs, and then focus on fulfilling them in ways that does not involve shopping.