As a therapist, I’ve had people tell me they want to be all sorts of things. Happier. Healthier. More enthusiastic. More optimistic. Having greater satisfaction with their lives. Being better able to love others. Feeling more loved. Less anxious and depressed.
There’s a way to be all of those things and many more. All you have to do is embrace gratitude.
What do I mean by that? Let’s start by defining gratitude as the quality of being thankful and being ready to show appreciation for (and return) kindness. Simply put, gratitude is becoming actively aware of all you receive from life and those around you.
It truly can help you be all those things I mentioned earlier. People who embrace gratitude are less likely to be overwhelmed by anxiety and depression. Research proves that gratitude lowers blood pressure, boosts the immune system, and reduces aches and pains. It leads to more restful sleep and makes us more resilient, so we’re better able to recover from problems — even from the kind of trauma that leads to PTSD.
Gratitude strengthens the relationships we have with those around us. We feel closer and are more willing to be forgiving. We’re more likely to be generous and “pay it forward” for others in need. No wonder the concept appears all over the Bible. Check out Psalms 118:24, I Thessalonians 5:18, and Colossians 3:17 for a few examples.
Gratitude is one of those things that doesn’t happen without effort. We have to be consciously aware of it and practice it regularly. But it’s also one of those things that becomes easier and more natural each time you do it. How can you become more grateful? One way is to create a gratitude journal in which you record life’s many blessings and what you appreciate about others. You can put visual reminders around you, like positive statements and post-it notes in your home, car, and workplace. You can send thank-you notes and happy emails to others.
Instead of getting lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life, stop and look around. Feel, taste, smell, see, and hear the goodness of life by looking through the lens of gratitude. When you speak with others, choose language that expresses your appreciation. If you run into a roadblock, think of positive things, and solutions are sure to emerge. And, the next time you pray, instead of focusing on your needs, why not begin by thanking God for the gifts you enjoy each day?
As more people choose to practice, integrate, and embody gratitude, they’ll generate a force that will help us create the kind of world we all hope for and desire, for ourselves and for future generations. And it all starts with you, when you choose gratitude.
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