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3 Tips to Practicing Gratitude in Your Life

Gratitude-the-key-to-happiness

Gratitude – The Key to Happiness

It feels like the concept of gratitude has received a ton of attention over the last few years. So much so that it runs the risk of feeling over discussed. That happens sometimes in the self-development and wellness space. A concept or practice becomes very “hot” and everywhere you look there’s another article, video, or talk show about it. So much so it’s tempting to look elsewhere for something which seems less overused.

In my experience though, having a healthy gratitude practice is something which will serve you well, no matter how much it’s being talked about.

Gratitude is the ability and willingness to see all that is in our life, instead of focusing on what isn’t. It’s a mindset and mental behavior which can keep us balanced in the midst of uncertainty and help us flourish when things are already going well.

It can be about noticing, appreciating, and marveling at the super small. Like how a tiny basil seed, not much bigger than a grain of sand, when nourished with good soil, water, and sunshine, grows into a beautiful, vibrant green plant that produces leaf after leaf of fragrant, tasty basil.

It can be about noticing, appreciating, and marveling at the super big. Like how the sun provides our lonely little planet in the vastness of space with the necessary heat to keep us warm and nourish the incredible array of plant life which produces the oxygen necessary for our survival.

And a million options in between those.

Gratitude is the ability and willingness to see all that is in our life, instead of focusing on what isn’t. It’s a mindset and mental behavior which can keep us balanced in the midst of uncertainty and help us flourish when things are already going well.

sea-turtles-seem-to-always-go-with-the-flowIt can also be the key to staying in balance. In my book, Das Cafe am Rande Der Welt, there’s a story about a green sea turtle. This is probably the piece of that book which is most often quoted back to me by readers. Part of what the story explains is that green sea turtles are masters at managing the use of their resources. In the face of big waves, they hold their position, conserving their energy. When the movement of the water is with them, they leverage this to propel themselves forward with the least amount of effort.

There’s an aspect of gratitude which coincides with this. Because it’s partly our ability to enter and maintain a state of appreciation when the forces of life are pushing against us, that enables us to maintain our balance and position in the times when we need it most. Just like the green sea turtle’s efforts keep it from being tossed, turned, spun around and catapulted backwards in rough waters, gratitude helps keep us from all that in uncertain and difficult times.

Then in the good times, gratitude becomes a propellant. It helps us accelerate the already positive progress we’re experiencing as we move our life in the direction we want it to go – our life’s purpose.

it’s partly our ability to enter and maintain a state of appreciation when the forces of life are pushing against us, that enables us to maintain our balance and position in the times when we need it most.

As you consider the ways gratitude can be a factor in your life, here are three tips to help you implement a successful gratitude practice.

 

1. Build your gratitude muscles in calm conditions first

Imagine if through a series of bizarre circumstances your life was hanging in the balance. And for some reason, the only thing which would enable you to survive was to successfully climb Mt. Everest. Except you’re only allowed one shot at it, and you have to succeed in the next 60 days. In that scenario, you probably wouldn’t wait to start training until day 45 when you arrived at a cold and snowy base camp where the oxygen levels and air temperatures are dramatically less than your body is used to. Quite the contrary. You’d begin in a place that was less harsh, more temperate, and with a greater supply of oxygen so your mind is clear and focused.

Then, after you’d gained strength, skills, and adeptness, you’d transition to harsher environments until you were ready to take on Everest.

mount-everest

The same goes with implementing a successful gratitude practice. It really is a skill which can dramatically enhance your life. It’s also a skill best mastered by practicing in calm conditions, so that when you encounter major challenges, you already know what you’re doing.

Which leads us perfectly to step number two.

 

2. Find gratefulness all around you, especially in the little things… like pizza

Much like building any muscle, successfully building your gratitude muscles comes from starting small and scaling quickly as you get more and more proficient. And the more you practice, the easier being grateful becomes. For example, suppose you sit down to eat a pizza at a little Italian restaurant.

By starting with something small, like a pizza, we realize just how much there is to be grateful for in our life.

And when your pizza arrives, you decide to practice a little gratitude around your experience. At first glance, our mind might think of something like being grateful for the chef who made the pizza. That’s a good start. So you take a second or two and mentally say, “Thanks chef. Thanks for all your training, expertise and dedication which helped create this amazing looking pizza.” If your gratitude moment ended there, that alone would be a really positive few seconds and genuinely change your experience with your meal.

With a little reflection though, it doesn’t take much to realize our gratitude moment can go a lot deeper than that. Some cow somewhere made the milk which was necessary to create that delicious looking cheese bubbling ever so slightly on the pizza. “Thanks cow.” Whoever first discovered that milk could be turned into cheese, and all the people over the centuries who helped perfect cheese making, are also partly responsible for your pizza looking and tasting as good as it does. “Thanks cheese experts.” Then there’s the people who work at the factory where the cheese for your specific pizza was made, the tomato growers who supplied their genius to grow the tomatoes which were turned into succulent sauce, the driver who delivered all the supplies to the restaurant, the sun for ripening the tomatoes and feeding the grains used in the crust….

The next thing you know, in literally a few seconds, you really view your pizza in a whole new way. A more positive and powerful way.

By starting with something small, like a pizza, we realize just how much there is to be grateful for in our life. The more times we practice on the small things, the more we realize the immense amounts of interconnected and interwoven elements of life that are part of what enable us to have the existence we do. And that awareness changes how we feel and the way we approach each day.

This appreciation then ripples forward into the bigger elements in our lives. And over time, with practice, even when we face difficult moments, we’re able to find things to be grateful for. Which helps us find meaning by reframing the size of our challenges and the impact they have on us, and how we feel as we’re going through them.

3. Leverage the power of directional gratitude

In my books I’ve shared a lot about the importance of knowing your PFE, Purpose for Existing, and Big Five for Life, the five things you most want to do, see, and experience in your lifetime.

That’s because the greater certainty you have about those things, the easier it is to allocate your time, energy, financial, mental, and other resources towards them. That’s important from an optimization standpoint. It’s also important because every second of every day we are demonstrating what we want in life through the way we allocate those resources.

Add to that our actions and dialogues, and we are constantly sending very loud signals to the cosmic algorithm of the universe. Which is responding in kind with more of whatever we choose to demonstrate is important to us. We are co-creating the life we live and the realities we experience.

Therefore, a very significant tool we have at our disposal, is our ability to acknowledge with gratitude the great things which happen in alignment with the life we’ve defined as the one we want to be living.

A thank you sends a clear and direct signal to the universe that this moment, experience, gift, is something you really appreciate.

Think of it like this. Imagine you have two friends who both want to become chefs who specialize in Peruvian cuisine. So you help them both by sharing cool YouTube videos you discover about Peruvian food, you take them both to Peruvian restaurants you’ve researched, you introduce them to contacts you have who specialize in South American cuisine… One of the two friends is genuinely appreciative each time you do something which helps them out. Whether it’s a small thing or a big thing, they always take a few moments to express their appreciation.

The other friend never says thank you. Never. Not for the small things, not for the big things. Never.

Who are you more inclined to keep helping? Whose actions inspire you to find even more ways to help?

I believe gratitude in the context of the cosmic algorithm of the universe, works the same way. A thank you sends a clear and direct signal to the universe that this moment, experience, gift, is something you really appreciate. And when you are extra diligent about applying your gratitude practice in alignment with your PFE and Big Five for Life, the universe responds in kind and you optimize your chances of living the kind of life you want.

Enjoy the adventures. I’m grateful you took the time to read this.

John P. Strelecky is the author of the #1 Bestselling Das Café am Rande der Welt and Big Five for Life series of books. To learn more about his works, and about discovering your purpose, please visit www.johnstrelecky.com

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