An Attitude of Gratitude

Are you a glass half-full or a glass half-empty person?   Be honest.

Glass half-full people tend to see the good in almost every situation—even the negative ones.  You know the kind—they’re the ones always saying things like, “There’s a reason for everything,” and “This too shall pass.”

Conversely, glass half-empty people find it difficult to see past the negative.  Ascribing to “Murphy’s Law,” they believe that if anything can go wrong, it will.  In many cases this is a learned behavior as a means of self-preservation from life’s many disappointments, but it can also take away from our ability to see the good when it happens.

Isn’t it impractical to be positive all the time? 

Let’s face it; it is hard to be positive when bad things are happening around us.  However, we can increase our ability to stay positive by developing a stronger sense of gratitude.  Gratitude helps us to have a greater appreciation for the things we do have, rather than focus on the things we don’t have.  In short, gratitude is one of the greatest catalysts for positive mental health and strong character. Numerous studies in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggest that grateful people are likely to have higher levels of happiness, and lower levels of stress and depression.   Here’s how:

Gratitude makes us more optimistic.  When we appreciate the good in our lives, we bring balance to the negativity that surrounds us on a daily basis, and we are not as easily overwhelmed by life’s many stresses.  It also makes us less materialistic.  In her Life Master Class, Oprah Winfrey teaches that “when all we think about is what we want, there is a good chance that we will never get it,” however, when we find contentment in what we have, more good things naturally come our way.  Some refer to this as the law of attraction.  Gratitude also increases our spirituality.  Most people find it important to express their thankfulness to a spiritual entity, or higher power.  A heart of gratitude also makes us less self-centered.  It gives us the ability to see the hardships of others, not just our own.  This helps us to be more compassionate.  When we are compassionate and benevolent towards others, people tend to like us more, and that encourages better self-esteem.   What do more optimism, less materialism, increased spirituality, less self-centeredness, and a healthier self-esteem lead to?  Greater happiness.

What can we do to increase the gratitude level in our lives?  

One of the best ways is to begin keeping a gratitude journal.  It can be as basic as a spiral notebook, or you can choose from a variety of diaries and personal journals available in department stores or bookstores.   Each night before bedtime think about the events of your day.  Even if your day was hard, make an effort to write down just two to three things you were grateful for.  They don’t have to be big things—it can be as simple as “got the stain out of my shirt.”

Developing an attitude of gratitude may take some work, but as with most things, when we do it over and over and over again, it will eventually become a habit.  When gratitude becomes a habit, we will begin to see past the gray clouds of disappointment to the silver lining of contentment.

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