But with all the difficulties in our daily lives, you might ask, how the heck are we supposed to be more grateful?
That’s one of the cool things about gratitude. In addition to being beneficial to you and those around you, gratitude is easy to develop. You just, well, identify things to be grateful about.
You can try keeping mental notes about those things for which you’re grateful. Some people, for instance, do this as they’re falling asleep at night; some people do it while they’re driving; some people do it while they’re walking the dog. Some of us, though, are prone to forgetting these mental campaigns and need more structure. For those people, a gratitude list will work.
Now, before you click off this page, I know that the idea of keeping any sort of journal makes some people cringe. So I want to promise you: No one need ever know you’re doing this. You don’t have to do it in a “blank book” with puppies on the cover; you don’t have to share your list with others. In fact, if it makes you feel better, you can do it on the back of an envelope when you’re all by yourself and then cram the list inside a sock in your top drawer.
No one will be the wiser.
Start by listing ten things for which you’re grateful. It might be the fact that you went to college. Or that your kids are amazing. It might be that your husband knows how to prune, that your office manager is sharp as a tack, that your business partner is better at schmoozing than you are, that you own your home, that finches are nesting outside your window, that you got a good deal on your current lease, or that you found a blog where someone talks about emotional stuff — on a business site. (Note to editor: Can I use emoticons on this blog?)
Just do ten, put the list aside, and go on with your life. A couple days down the line (yes, you have to calendar this), come up with another ten. This time it might be that you love the logo the designer created, that your mother sent new bathing suits for the kids, that you were born with a talent for window displays, that your dog is adorable, or that you have enough money to feed your family every month.
Why do this? Studies have shown that people who cultivate gratitude by keeping a weekly gratitude lists (hold onto your socks…for which you should be grateful, by the way) exercise more, feel more optimistic, come closer to attaining their personal goals, and generally have higher levels of vitality and well-being. People who keep daily gratitude lists get all this good stuff, plus they report more enthusiasm, attentiveness, alertness and general energy.
Seems like a pretty good deal.
Today’s homework: Try writing one gratitude list. Just give it a try! And then let me know how you feel afterwards.