Being grateful is not as hard as you think
Updated: Jan 26
Thank you so much for joining me here today. I honour you, and I hope that you are honouring yourself for showing up! Today I'm going to be sharing about gratitude. I'm sure you've heard about how gratitude is one of the simplest things that we can practice to have more joy in our lives, but maybe you didn't quite understand why, and so the lesson didn't stick for you. I'm going to be telling you why today, and letting you know that it's easier and way more powerful than you think.
One of the books I'm currently reading is titled "Retire Young Retire Rich", by Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter. R. Kiyosaki spends the first few chapters detailing a concept he calls "The Leverage of your mind". What this simply means is that our minds our powerful beyond measure. We have the ability to bring things into existence simply through belief, consistent action and aligned thoughts. Gratitude falls into this concept of the leverage of the mind. It's a simple and free tool that is available to literally anyone on the planet. But not many people believe that simply through a shift in belief, thoughts and perspective, that they can change their life. Seems too good to be true; yet it is that good and it is true. Gratitude is one of the free tools that we can use at any given moment to shift our perspective, beliefs and thoughts, in order to manifest a more ideal reality.
I'm super excited to be writing this, and I'm hoping that you're just as keen as I am to dig into this piece today. So let's get right into it.
In this post you will....
.discover how researchers define gratitude
.discover how a gratitude practice will help you create the life you desire
.gain inspiration from Oprah on practicing gratitude
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is often known to be the action of giving thanks when a person does something for us that we consider to be good: for example, we receive a gift from a friend and say thank you. However, positive psychology extends this definition of gratitude to mean not only an action or emotion, but a deeper appreciation for someone or something that yields long-lasting and measurable positive effects on our minds (positivepsychology.com).
But let's face it, it isn't always easy to be grateful in the face of life's challenges. Our egos drive us towards feelings of entitlement, victimhood and resentment. It can be easy to feel like life is just trying to beat us down at times, or to feel like we were entitled to snap at that waiter who messed up our order. Yet, if we acknowledge that gratitude is an intentional practice, a spiritual posture of sorts, and if we know the benefits associated with practicing it, then it becomes much easier to hold ourselves accountable and to remain motivated to being grateful.
"The very fact that gratitude is a virtue suggests that it must be deliberately cultivated" - Dr. Robert Emmons & Anjali Mishra in "Why Gratitude Enhances Well-being: What We Know and What We Need to Know"
The two stages of expressing gratitude
So let's take it a step further and ground this in some practicality. It's helpful to know what gratitude looks like, so that you can have a solid foundation for your gratitude practice (if you choose to adopt one). Truly understanding gratitude will help you to dig deeper in your practice, and give your mind the proper tools to develop thankfulness as a neurologically wired default response to both life's blessings and challenges.
Okay, so here are the two stages for you. Dr. Robert Emmons, in a 2003 paper, outlines this quite clearly for us:
1. Expressing gratitude starts with acknowledging that goodness exists in our lives
Whatever circumstances we face, we remain in the knowing that life in its totality is beautiful and worthy of living. We acknowledge that gratitude is a choice that we can make, and from which we derive meaning and fulfilment.
2. We recognise that some of the sources of life's goodness are external to ourselves
This means that we can be grateful, not only to ourselves, but to things outside of ourselves. For example, we could be grateful to the earth for providing us with food to eat, or we could be grateful to our parents for the care they have provided us with. In other words, we reflect and feel grateful for, the sacrifices that were made by other people/things for there to be goodness in our lives.
The benefits of practicing gratitude
It's always helps to understand how you will benefit from including a new ritual/habit into your life. We can't act like as human beings, we are solely motivated by the desire to be virtuous. Most of us want to know what's in it for us, or else why bother? The great news is that there is sooo much to be gained from maintaining a posture of gratitude. Scientific research has proven it, and my personal experience has showed me that this gratitude thing is definitely real and worth it.
Modern positive psychology outlines nine areas that are positively associated with gratitude. I'm going to give you a summary of the points that are relevant to you tapping into your inner power and creating a year/life beyond your wildest dreams.
1. practicing gratitude is linked with better overall wellness, including mental health
This is not to say that better mental health is only about being more grateful. But there definitely is a psychological, and even spiritual, relationship between gratitude and our mental health. Research shows that the more grateful you are, the less likely you are to be depressed, the more likely you are to manage depressive symptoms (if you experience them), and the more likely you are to experience enhanced life satisfaction.
Above this, gratitude is also linked with better physical health. Because of the mind-body connection involved in the practice, and since our minds are healthier and stronger when we practice gratitude, the effect of a healthier mind then results in a healthier body.
2. being grateful has been linked with higher levels of optimism.
Particularly in the areas of wellbeing and health, research subjects were more optimistic after 10 weeks of participating in the gratitude study. If you read my morning routine series, you might remember the fact that it takes approx. 66 days to form a new habit. This means that to reap the benefits of practicing gratitude, it may take at least 66 days to feel its positive impact in your life. But, less scientifically, some people have said they've felt the benefits in less than a week. I guess it could just be a personal thing. Have faith and try it for yourself.
With greater optimism, you can achieve so much more in life, and just generally be happier. Think about how much easier it would be to get up in the morning with greater optimism, or how much easier it would be to get in that daily workout, to use your time better, or even just to be kinder to people.
3. gratitude can help us with having more self control
I'm sure we've all made decisions that we regret as a result of poor self-control. Well, recent research shows that through regularly practicing gratitude, we're more likely to experience more discipline, clarity of mind and focus. This is great for creating the lives that we desire, because it helps us with making decisions that are aligned with our highest long-term interest, rather than doing what may feel good in the moment but not help us create the lives we want.
Struggle with procrastination or spending money poorly? Is there a part of you that suspects that by becoming more grateful for the blessings and abundance already present in your life, that you will become inspired to create even more goodness in your life by procrastinating less and making better financial decisions? (I definitely need to learn to use my money more wisely, I'm working on it atm).
So it's clear that there is so much to be gained from having a devoted gratitude practice. I think the fact alone that it brings so much more peace, understanding and joy is motivating enough. But it's amazing to know that that it's not only great for us spiritually and emotionally, but it also has tangible physical benefits that will support us in manifesting the lives we desire.
A lesson from Oprah about gratitude
1. Oprah Winfrey
We all know Oprah. She's massively successful and hugely inspiring. She credits gratitude for maintaining happiness in her life amidst the business of highly blessed life and career. Here's an excerpt from her website Oprah.com:
I know for sure that appreciating whatever shows up for you in life changes your personal vibration. You radiate and generate more goodness for yourself when you're aware of all you have and not focusing on your have-nots.
Here is another excerpt from her book "What I Know for Sure", which I sourced from pannmacmillan.com:
Every morning when I open my curtains for that first look at the day, no matter what the day looks like — raining, foggy, overcast, sunny — my heart swells with gratitude. I get another chance.
In the best of times and worst of times, I know for sure, this life is a gift. And I believe that no matter where we live or how we look or what we do for a living, when it comes to what really matters — what makes us laugh and cry, grieve and yearn, delight and rejoice — we share the same heart space. We just fill it with different things. Here are 15 of my favorites:
Planting vegetables in my garden.
Making blueberry-lemon pancakes on Sunday morning for Stedman. Never fails to delight him — like he’s 7 every time.
An off-leash romp on the front lawn with all my dogs.
A rainy day, a chill in the air, a blazing fire in the fireplace.
Picking vegetables from my garden.
A great book.
Reading in my favorite place on earth: under my oak trees.
Cooking vegetables from my garden.
Sleeping till my body wants to wake up.
Waking up to the real twitter: birds.
A workout so strong, my whole body breathes.
Eating vegetables from my garden.
The daily spiritual practice of gratitude. Every day I bless my life by counting my blessings.
You don't have to wait to be an ultra-successful millionaire (or billionaire in Oprah's case) to practice gratitude. You don't have to wait for a tragedy to occur in your life before you decide to take on this shift in perspective. Joy, peace and contentment are available to you now. And totally for free. You've just spent your precious time learning about the spiritual, emotional and physical benefits of having a gratitude practice. If it's not already a ritual in your life, start now. This is one of those things that you'd rather not take the risk of living without.
When I started writing this I thought it would be one post, but I realised that there's more that I have to say about this topic. Next week*, I want to share with you how you can start a gratitude practice in your own life. For now, start looking for small things to be grateful for every day. Start telling people "thank you" when they have done things that you really appreciate. It's a small way to make not only your life better, but also to spread more kindness and light in this world. Be the light sis.
As always, please share your key take-aways from this post with me on IG @heysis.sa. Let me know you were here, and share the message of self care and manifesting a life of your dreams with other sisters who, just like you, are hungry for more. Love you lots, and thank you for showing up for yourself today.
*Read the next post on creating your own gratitude practice here
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