10 Ways to Increase Your Level of Gratitude
What if we discovered that there was one thing that we could do to make a profound shift in our lives? In our mental space? Would we follow that advice?
There is one thing above all that we can focus on to create such a mental change. The notion grows from the idea that there are always good and bad things around us. We constantly live in a state where we want more. It is a challenge for our minds to become aware of all of the things that we have. As Seneca once said, "Nothing satisfies greed, but even a little satisfies nature." When we realize we need little and that most of the time have more than enough, we can begin to cultivate a mindset of gratitude.
A gratitude practice simply means that we choose to focus on what we have, instead of what it is that we might be missing in our lives. The ironic part often occurs when we start to do this, and the things that we thought we were lacking begin seeping into our lives. This is because it completely changes our demeanor and outlook on life. With these new eyes and positive energy, we tend to attract those things that we at one point were thinking would not come into our lives.
Why Practice Gratitude?
Practicing gratitude not only positively impacts our life, but also the lives of the people around us. By focusing on being grateful, it benefits our mind, body, and soul. It's a type of internal self-improvement. By acknowledging the things that we are thankful for we can enhance our physical health and psychological well-being. The key is to create a life dedicated to the practice of gratitude systematically. It has to become a conscious action within our daily lives.
The physical benefits of gratitude can include a stronger immune system, lower blood pressure, better sleep habits, feeling more refreshed along with fewer aches and pains. The psychological effects include being more alert, attentive, optimistic, joyful, pleased, and happier. Socially, gratitude benefits us by increasing our feelings of compassion, generosity, ability to forgive, and the desire to be helpful. It could also help us to be more outgoing and lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation.
What can we do now?
Below are some things we can do right now to begin to create a life centered around the practice of gratitude and mindfulness. There are quotes added here for points of deeper contemplation. All quotes come from the book "your true home, the everyday wisdom of thich nhat hanh" with the page number at the end of each quote.
1. Commit to a Gratitude Practice
When we make an oath to do something, the chances that we will follow through increase. We can write down a simple gratitude vow like; I vow to be more thankful for all the things that I have.; We should then put it somewhere we will see it every day. We can also add social pressure by getting a gratitude buddy, or by telling our friends and family that we have committed to this positive practice. By seeing our vows daily and having people to hold us accountable will increase our odds of staying committed.
"We believe that happiness is possible only in the future. That is why the practice "I have arrived" is very important. The realization that we have already arrived, that we don't have to travel any further, that we are already here can give us peace and joy. The conditions for our happiness are already sufficient. We only need to allow ourselves to be in the present moment, and we will be able to touch them." Pg 9
2. Use A Gratitude Journal
We can get into the habit of regularly recording the things for which we feel grateful. Doing this will focus our attention on life's gifts and make us more thankful for the things that we have. One solid journal choice is "The Five Minute Journal" .
"There are many ways to come back to the here and now, and to touch life deeply. But they all involve mindful breathing. If we're anchored in our mindful breathing, we can practice anytime. Otherwise, we risk missing our lives, our lives that are lived in the here and now." Pg 73
3. Create A Gratitude Jar
At the end of each day, we can place the change in our pocket into a jar. When it is full, we can make a choice to give the money to a charitable cause. This provides us a way to put our gratitude into action. Donations also get us to realize that our life has abundance even when we may think that it does not.
"Bodhisattvas dwell on the same ground as the rest of us-the world of birth and death, permanence and self. But thanks to the practice of looking deeply into impermanence and nonself, they are in touch with the ultimate dimension, free from the fears associated with ideas of existence and nonexistence, one and many, coming and going, birth and death. In this freedom, they ride the waves of birth and death in perfect peace. They are able to remain in the world of waves while abiding in the nature of water." Pg 13
4. Give Unconditionally
We can make a choice to prioritize giving to others. If we cannot spare money, we surely can donate some of our time. This practice transforms appreciation from being an abstract concept into a way of life. Giving is part of our truest and deepest human nature.
"True generosity is not a trade or a bargaining strategy. In true giving, there is no thought of giver and recipient. This is called "the emptiness of giving," in which there is no perception of separation between the one who gives and the one who receives. This is the practice of generosity given in the spirit of wisdom, with the understanding of inter-being. You offer help as naturally as you breathe. You don't see yourself as the giver and the other person as the recipient of your generosity, who is not beholden to you and must be suitably grateful, respond to your demands, and so on. You don't give so you can make the other person your ally. When you see that people need help, you offer and share what you have with no strings attached and not thought of reward." Pg 318
5. Thank Others for Letting Us Give
Mother Teresa spoke about being grateful for the opportunity and ability to help the poor, sick, and dying. Having something to share is a great gift. We can tell others that their being open to receiving our donation of giving is helping us to grow personally and spiritually.
"The Milky Way doesn't say, "I am the Milky Way." It is the Milky Way. In reality, the wonderful reality is life. We are that wonderful reality. We ourselves are present here with a clear light that can illuminate and reflect everything as it is." Pg 303
6. Learn Gratitude Meditations
Many spiritual traditions have meditations around gratitude. They are considered the most potent type of reflections. We can pick one or two and repeat them often. This will help us to acknowledge the ultimate source of the gifts that we receive.
"Around us, life bursts forth with miracles - a glass of water, a ray of sunshine, a leaf, a caterpillar, a flower, laughter, raindrops. If you live in awareness, it is easy to see miracles everywhere. Each human being is a multiplicity of miracles. Eyes that see thousands of colors, shapes, and forms; ears that hear a bee flying or a thunderclap; a brain that ponders a speck of dust as easily as the entire cosmos; a heart that beats in rhythm with the heartbeat of all beings. When we are tired and feel discouraged by life's daily struggles, we may not notice these miracles, but they are always there." Pg 3
7. Live Life In The Present
Most of us want things that we do not have in the present moment. If we realize that this very moment is the only time that we have, we know that we cannot have anything else. The longing or more occurs when our minds wander into the future of possibilities.
"Your true home is in the here and the now. It is not limited by time, space, nationality, or race. Your true home is not an abstract idea; it is something you can touch and live in every moment. With mindfulness and concentration, the energies of the Buddha, you can find your true home in the full relaxation of your mind and body in the present moment." Pg 1
8. Be Honest with Ourselves
We should consider the difference between a need and want. If we can sweep away fleeting wishes, then we can discover our actual requirements. These exact needs are much less than our lofty dreams. This makes it much easier to obtain and then become content with what it is that we currently have in life.
"There is a Buddhist teaching that might seem strange to you. This is the teaching of aimlessness (apranihita in Sanskrit). Aimlessness means not setting an object or goal in front of you and running after it. But that is what everybody does. We want this, we want that, and as long as we haven't got it, we think happiness will be impossible. We must bring about a revolution in our thinking: we must stop. We must do as the flower does. The flower is aware of the fact that it contains everything within it, the whole cosmos, and it does not try to become something else. It is the same for you. You have God within you, so you do not have to look for God." Pg 11
9. Re-Frame Failure
We can counter failure with gratitude. Instead of looking at a past failure as a defeat, we can use the lens of gratitude to look at it as an opportunity. Every failure presents itself as the potential to learn, grow, and improve ourselves. It is only a failure if we walk away,having learned nothing merely doomed to make the same mistake again.
"The goodness of suffering is something real. Without suffering, there cannot be happiness. Without mud, there cannot be any lotus flowers. So if you know how to suffer, suffering is OK. And the moment you have that attitude, you don't suffer much anymore. And out of suffering, a lotus flower of happiness can open." Pg 10
10. Riding on The Shoulders of Giants
We have the ability to realize that wherever we are in our lives, we are, in fact, standing on the shoulders of giants. The cars that we drive, the food that we eat, the books that we read. These ideas are built upon thousands of years of knowledge. At first, this was passed down in a conventional sense; then it was recorded in books, now we have the entire internet of expertise in the palm of our hands.
"When I hold a piece of bread, I look at it, and sometimes I smile at it. The piece of bread is an ambassador of the cosmos offering nourishment and support. Looking deeply into the piece of bread, I see the sunshine, the clouds, the great earth. Without the sunshine, no wheat can grow. Without the clouds, there is no rain for the wheat to grow. Without the great earth, nothing can grow. That is why the piece of bread that I hold in my hand is a wonder of life. It is there for all of us. We have to be there for it." Pg 4
Focusing on gratitude takes conscious effort. We can begin by listing several things that we are grateful for every day in our journal. This will lead to a greater sense of appreciation.
Gratitude leads to more fulfillment, better health, and happier lives. It also leads to increased vitality and energy, along with making us more likable. The practice of gratitude can improve our self-control, strength, and relationships. If used properly, this practice can help us to have a more productive and successful career.
When used wisely, gratitude can be viewed as a socially intelligent attribute. It affirms the goodness and blessings in the world. We can enjoy all these things and more by being grateful for the benefits we receive every day. We should take care to be grateful but not naive. There are many good things in the world, yet we should keep in mind that there are also many bad things around. By keeping our minds open to this polarity, along with setting our sites on grateful pastures, we will be able to stay in harmony with the way of things.
Want to discuss how you can Increase the Gratitude in your life? Reach out in the comments below and begin a deeper discussion!