“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
A few years ago, I was sinking into depression, getting very close to ending my life. I was desperate to free myself from the dark clouds that were around me that made me feel unworthy and purposeless. And then as if on cue, I learnt about gratitude.
Initially, I started with just making a list of things I was grateful for when I was feeling low – the roof over my head, my parents, friends, enough money to pay for my rent etc. Within a few seconds I sensed a shift in my mood. And that made me dwell deeper into this emotion and use it more often.
I started feeling thankful, not only for the positive experiences but the so-called negative experiences as well. The more I experienced this emotion, the more I understood that the quickest and most powerful way to develop a happy mind is to fill it with gratitude – the key to happiness is gratitude.
So from my life experience and understanding, I wanted to share some of the key elements of this emotion and how we can bring it into our daily life.
So, what is gratitude?
Gratitude is the practice of noticing and appreciating the positives in the world (particularly in your own world). It is shifting the focus from what you don't have, to what you do have.
And how does gratitude help us?
When we are thankful and appreciative of what we have “right now”, we instantly raise our “feel good” vibes and give off high vibrational energy. In return we remain in constant alignment with the higher power (call it God or Universe or a Force or Energy), which means of course, what we desire actually comes to us even faster.
This also has a profound influence on our moment-to-moment mood and emotional state, and can have a huge impact on our physical health. In fact, there is a burgeoning field of research – positive psychology – devoted to looking at the contributing factors of happiness and well-being.
Gratitude helps us with our concentration, enthusiasm, optimism, satisfaction, empathy, more peaceful sleep and most importantly, it helps with a greater connection with the world in general.
Keeping all of the above in mind, I started 3 simple, daily practices to make being thankful a part of my routine and still continue to do so.
1. Practicing Mindfulness
Every morning when I wake up, I think of 3-5 things I am grateful for. The way I like to do this is by seeing a picture of each of these in my mind and feeling that gratitude deep within my heart and seeing it spread through my body.
Doing this every single day slowly re-wired my brain to naturally be more grateful, and I started noticing how much happier I was. With only 8 weeks of practicing gratitude they say your brain patterns change which leads to more empathy and happiness in your life. And that is definitely how I feel.
2. Gratitude Journal
There is nothing more beautiful for me than waking up and ending my night with gratitude. So right before I turn off the lights, I list down in my gratitude journal all the things/people/life situations I am grateful for. This could be as small as a lovely cup of coffee to getting a promotion, my friend showing me love, or just being alive and being able to bring my absolute best to the world.
While I am putting the pen to paper, my brain has no choice but to consciously think about the words I am writing without other distracting, ungrateful thoughts.
3. Giving back
Another way I bring thankfulness into my life, is to find a way to give back to others who are less fortunate or going through a rough time in their personal life. Not only does this make me more grateful for everything I already have been blessed with, but studies how that when one gives back (in the form of a kind word, money or even a smile) we tend to increase our own well-being.
No matter where I am, whether in my own home surrounded by people or traveling alone, I always find something to be grateful for. I have now made it a habit to just pause and observe the world, feeling grateful for the green trees around me or the cool breeze that passes by me.
Another way I use gratitude is to be grateful for everything I am about to receive i.e. everything I am working towards manifesting into my life. It could be love, money, new job opportunities, inner peace, happiness or even a massage. Being grateful for it in the now confirms to the Universe that it is already yours and that you are open to receiving it. It energizes the Law of Attraction, enabling me or anyone else to manifest what I desire even more quickly.
In a gist, gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a simple meal into a feast, a house into a home and a stranger into a friend. The simple fact that we are all breathing, have a beating heart and are alive, is reason enough to say thanks and feel happiness surge within our body.