10 Ways to Increase Your Level of Gratitude
Practicing gratitude not only positively impacts your life, but also the lives of the people around you. By focusing on being grateful, it benefits your mind, body, and soul. It's a type of internal self-improvement. By acknowledging the things that you are thankful for you can enhance your 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 your daily life.
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 you by increasing your feelings of compassion, generosity, forgiveness, and the desire to be helpful. It could also help you to be more outgoing and lessen feelings of loneliness and isolation.
Below are some things you 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 Yourself to a Gratitude Practice
When people make an oath to do something, the chances that they will follow through increase. Write down a simple gratitude vow like 'I vow to be thankful for all of my blessings.' Put it somewhere you will see it every day. You can add social pressure by getting a gratitude buddy, or tell your friends and family that you have committed to this positive practice. By seeing your vow daily and having people hold you accountable increases your 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
Regularly record the things for which you feel grateful. Doing this will focus your attention on life's gifts and make you more thankful for the things that you have. One solid journal choice is “The Five Minute Journal” found at https://www.intelligentchange.com/
“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 put the change in your pocket into a jar. When it is full, give the money to a charitable cause. This gives you a way to put your gratitude into action. Donations also get you to realize that your life has abundance even when you may think that it may 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 non-self, they are in touch with the ultimate dimension, free from the fears associated with ideas of existence and non-existence, 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
Prioritize giving to others. If you cannot spare money, you surely can donate some of your 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 interbeing. 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 You 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. Tell others that their being open to receiving your donation of giving is helping you 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. Pick one or two and repeat them often. This will help you to acknowledge the ultimate source of the gifts that you 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 people want things that they do not have at this 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 for 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 Yourself
If you are truly honest with yourself, what is it that you need and what is it that is a superficial 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. That is exactly 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
Counter failure with gratitude. Instead of looking at a past failure as a defeat, use the lens of gratitude to look at it as an opportunity. Every failure presents itself as an opportunity to learn, grow and improve ourselves. It is only a failure if you 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. You Are Riding on The Shoulders of Giants
Realize that wherever you are in your life, you are in fact standing on the shoulders of giants. The cars that you drive, the food that you eat, the books that you 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. You can begin by listing several things that you are grateful for every day in your journal. This will lead to a greater sense of appreciation.
Gratitude leads to more fulfillment, better health, and a happier life. It also leads to increased vitality and energy and makes you more likable, increases your self-control, helps you develop stronger, more meaningful relationships and can help you to have a more productive, successful career.
Gratitude is a socially intelligent attribute. It affirms the goodness and blessings in the world. You can enjoy all these things and more by being grateful for the benefits you receive every day.