An Attitude of Gratitude

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful, a readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness. And today this quality is needed more than ever. When one is content with what we have and are thankful for it, it boosts happiness and the overall sense of wellbeing.

When you have an attitude of gratitude, you tend to appreciate everything in life, grateful for relationships, health, work, and have a general sense of well-being. It shifts the focus from yourself to appreciating someone or something else. But this is something that is not innate in human beings, it has to be cultivated and one needs to make it a conscious habit to express thankfulness and appreciation for every part of their life. Having an attitude of gratitude means one operates from a place of abundance, rather than scarcity.

Gratitude shifts the mindset and is a thankful appreciation for what one has, not what one doesn’t have. When gratitude is expressed, one feels more positive and intentional and developing this attitude requires a mindset shift to make it a daily habit. It is important because what one appreciates grows and increases in value, so when one practices gratitude, all that is around, like relationships, work, health and mindset become more important.

Being grateful improves self-confidence, self-esteem and enhances the enjoyment of the present moment. So, when one feels grateful daily, they feel more positive and are more present at the moment.

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An attitude of gratitude means creating a conscious mindset and habit to express thankfulness and be grateful for every aspect of our life, both the things that are going well and the things that aren’t. When one has an attitude of gratitude, they can focus on expanding the positives in their lives, rather than dwelling on the negatives. When one expresses gratitude, they feel more confident, positive, and optimistic as well as happier and joyful about the things they have, and the people that matter most. This mindset reduces stress, overwhelm and frustration and creates feelings of abundance and happiness.

And in addition to improving mood, recent studies show that feeling and expressing gratitude leads to better physical health as well. Paul Mills, a Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, conducted studies that looked at the role of gratitude on heart health. Among other things, he found that participants who kept a journal most days of the week, writing about 2-3 things they were grateful for, which included everything from appreciating their children to travel and good food, had reduced levels of inflammation and improved heart rhythm compared to people who did not write in a journal. And the journal-keepers also showed a decreased risk of heart disease after only 2 months of this new routine.

Another study from the University of Pennsylvania found that people who wrote and delivered a heartfelt thank-you letter actually felt happier for a full month after, and the same researchers discovered that writing down three positive events each day for a week kept happiness levels high for up to six months.

So how does one develop an attitude of gratitude?

Appreciate everything: To cultivate an attitude of gratitude, look for things to appreciate daily. Developing active gratitude is different from reactive gratitude. With reactive gratitude, one waits for something to happen before they express appreciation or thanks, but with active gratitude, one consciously looks for ways to be grateful and express appreciation. Thus, expressing gratitude becomes a choice. When one express gratitude daily, the things and people they appreciate grow in value and they start to see more things to be grateful for, which in turn makes one happier and more content, increasing positivity and happiness.

Express gratitude every day: It’s important to express gratitude daily, rather than on occasion. Developing a gratitude practice of acknowledging what one is thankful for or appreciate daily will expand the value of the things one is grateful for. A good gratitude practice is to start and end each day by writing down three things you’re grateful for. When one expresses gratitude on a daily basis, one builds positive habits and forces them to appreciate every day, even if was a bad day. It may seem strange initially, especially when you have to think about what you are grateful for that day, but after some time, it gets easier and one can easily find a few things that day to be grateful for. Try it initially for 30 days. Be specific about what you are thankful for and watch how your thoughts develop over time.

Take ownership of your present: Start with appreciating and giving thanks for what you have today and be happy about what you’ve achieved and give thanks to the people in your life which increases gratitude. When one takes ownership of their present moment, they choose to be grateful, optimistic and positive. A positive mindset reframes negative thoughts and builds confidence from past accomplishments.

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Meditate: Meditation is a powerful practice in self-awareness. The goal isn’t to silence your thoughts, rather, it’s to become an active observer of them. The process of meditation is all about allowing the mind to do its thing and accept it as it is. Through meditation, one can build up areas of the brain and rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress. When the mind is masters, the emotions become a servant to the mind and one becomes less reactive and better able to handle life’s challenges. Irrespective of whether you regularly meditate, try and take a break a few times a day to focus on a spirit of thankfulness.

Celebrate the small things: Humans are conditioned to focus on and celebrate big achievements, instead of small wins. However, if one fails to ignore the small things in life and keep rushing from one thing to the next, demotivation will quickly set in. Who one becomes is not determined by the end goal, instead, it’s determined by the person they become while going on the journey to reach the goal and life’s successes. When the small things in life are celebrated, it means celebrating good habits. Take time to pause, slow down and savour the small things. Instead of obsessing about the future or dwelling on the past and be more aware of the present moment.

Commit to a gratitude practice: When one commits to a daily gratitude practice, their mindset and thinking changes. When there is an appreciation for the things that matter, there is more insight into what’s important. This, in turn, gives a chance to pause and think about the purpose with clarity on why certain things are important and why certain things and people are valuable. Committing to a gratitude practice helps one understand why they appreciate certain things rather than others and learn about themselves a little bit more. They also get to see the positive effect their gratitude has on others.

So there you have it, a gratitude practice, irrespective of how you do it, has immense benefits. As this practice develops, the habit will eventually bring positivity to our lives and we will feel happier, more positive and learn to appreciate and value all the little happiness in life.

As for me, after researching for this post, I have started to work on my gratitude journal, something I have done off and on for a few years now, but have never followed through consistently. Hopefully, this post will give me that push I need to make it a regular practice.

Journaling: Like Whispering to One’self and Listening at the Same Time

Once the domain of teenage girls with their locked diaries, today, journaling has become mainstream, especially when it becomes a part of self-care. Scientific studies have shown it to be essentially a panacea for modern life. There are the obvious benefits, like a boost in mindfulness, memory and communication skills. But studies have also found that writing in a journal can lead to better sleep, a stronger immune system, more self-confidence and a higher IQ. And there is some research from New Zealand which suggest that journaling may even help to heal wounds faster.

Labelling emotions and acknowledging traumatic events, both natural outcomes of journaling, have known to have a positive effect on people, and are often incorporated into traditional therapy. At the same time, writing is fundamentally an organisational system. Keeping a journal, according to experts, helps to organise an event in our mind, and make sense of trauma. When we do that, our working memory improves, since our brains are freed from the enormously taxing job of processing that experience, and we sleep better. This in turn improves our immune system and our moods and we go to work feeling refreshed, perform better and socialise more.

Journaling can help manage anxiety, reduce stress, cope with depression, control symptoms and improve the mood by helping prioritise problems, fears, and concerns and tracking any symptoms day-to-day so that one can recognise triggers and learn ways to better control them. Journaling also provides an opportunity for positive self-talk and identifying negative thoughts and behaviours.

So what should we journal about? I have been journaling for about four to five years now and I use my journals as my daily diary, a sort of a brain drain and a way to get rid of all the things that swirl in our brains and clutter, not allowing us to be productive. My journal is online, on the cloud as a Google Doc and I sort it by month and write daily (or at least try to write). I prefer using a cloud system because I can then sync it across my devices and laptop and it is always with me. A pen and paper diary is bulky and if I am writing things in it that I don’t want anyone else to see, then secreting it is an issue. Having it online means to a large extent, I can control who can view it. But this is personal, you can use whatever method you prefer. Somedays I come back to my journal multiple times a day to write, especially when something very interesting is happening, other days, it’s a quick couple of lines at the end of the day to just document that day.

Journaling has many other benefits other than what I have written above.

Journaling optimizes one’s creative potential by allowing you a space to put down your ideas. So that 3 am idea which never saw the light of the day because it was forgotten by the time we woke up now can be channelled in a journal to be used later. A journal is also a good place to review your goals and see what you need to do to get there. As you read and refine your goals daily, including your to-do list, they become a part of you in your conscious mind and you become more productive. They become a part of your daily reflections, in both your personal and professional life and when you look back, you can see what needs to be done and when. When we journal, we can see with crystal clear what should and should not be included in your life and not only will you have more clarity about your path in life, but it will improve your ability to make small and large decisions along the way. Journaling also helps clear the stress in your life by reducing the scatter in your life, increasing focus, increased stability, a deeper level of learning, order and action, releasing pent-up thoughts and emotions and detaching and letting go of the past.

Without a journal, intense emotional experiences can be crippling for hours, days, and even years. However, an honest and inspired journal session can be the best form of therapy, quickly returning you better and smarter than you were before. Journaling is also a way to express gratitude. Even if one starts a journal session in a bad mood, the insight writing brings has a subtle way of shifting the mind towards gratitude. When one starts writing what they are grateful for, new chambers of thoughts opens in the palace of your mind. Make sure to include gratitude in the journal and it will change your entire life orientation from scarcity to abundance with the world increasingly becoming your oyster.

As a parting thought, I would suggest that if you start journaling, don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss a day to journal. After all, it takes 21 days to make something a habit. Just write a couple of lines about your day and share it as if you are sharing your thoughts with a close friend.

The Joy of Journaling

pexels-photo-256424.jpegThis post has been germinating in my head for a few weeks now and I have finally managed to put my thoughts down.

I’ve kept journals before, mostly physical diaries as a young girl, but then I’ve always had the fear that someone will open it up and read my innermost thoughts, and so after a few years of writing in them, I stopped.

After that, it was done in bits and pieces and I would write when and where I felt like. This blog is also an extension of that compulsion to jot down my thoughts and feelings. Then came social media and everyone started sharing their lives online, be it happiness, sadness or even rants and vents. But because I am a super private person, I find it hard to share on social media like many of my peers do. So most of the stuff I didn’t want to share here, on this blog were bottled up. I have done some writing and tearing it up techniques just to get rid of the feelings, but I have always felt it was not enough.

0a1ca130e30e35ae8ae825f85ad82cc9A couple of years back, I came across the idea of the bullet journal and was absolutely intrigued by this concept! Here was something that could document my entire life and I could plan months in advance and would never forget anything that needed to get done! I went and purchased a nice lined notebook and started planning my year (this was sometime in December 2016). Come January 2017, I started using the notebook as my bullet journal.

I lasted less than one month….

The bullet journal was not for me. I am the least creative person I know and can’t even draw a straight line without needing to use a ruler. This was because all the articles and videos I saw about how to effectively use a bullet journal was full of supremely talented and creative ideas which I had zero ideas to implement. I also could not write detailed notes without moving across pages in the book which hampered my journaling efforts a lot. But the deal breaker, at least to me, was the fact that I could not undo any mistakes in my journal. For a person who hates having things crossed out or cancelled, it made me squirmy and brought out all my latent tendencies! So that pretty much ended my bullet journaling journey.

So what next?

While I was using the bullet journal, I had also started using another space to document my daily life. This was nothing more than Google Docs. I started using it from January 2017 and am using it till now (and hopefully for a long time to come) as space where I document what goes on in my life on a day-to-day basis. What I do is very simple, every month is a fresh document and when I finish a year, I pull all the documents for that year into a folder named after the year. The individual files are named Year and month. That’s it. I use it almost every day and there’s no pressure to write long grandmother stories. Some days, it’s just a couple of lines and some days, yes, it’s a detailed description of what I did, ate, met and thought. I have also used it to document the steps I take each day, keep track of my eating and also any habits I am tracking at that particular time. I also love that since it’s on a cloud, I can use the space anywhere I am – where on my mobile device or on a physical computer. I also find it very cathartic when I am able to pen down my innermost thoughts and rants and when I put it down, I find my heart feel lighter and also am able to sleep well at night without having a multitude of thoughts chasing around my head.

I’ve gone a step ahead in 2018. In addition to my monthly Google Docs, I have also started using Google Sheets to track the progress of my habits and other data that I want to track this year. I have created graphs and this lets me see at a glance where I am with respect to those goals.

There are many benefits to keeping a daily diary or journal. It helps you stretch your language as you write every day and this, in turn, lets you challenge yourself with newer words and sentence structure. You are also able to keep track of your goals and lets you know where you are in terms of achieving them and you learn to improve communication skills, both written as well as oral. Also, as I wrote above, writing down your thoughts is cathartic and if you are disturbed either mentally or emotionally, the whole process allows you to make the experience more realistic, which in turns allows you heal faster. Studies have also shown that the emotional release from journaling lowers anxiety, stress, and induces better sleep.

Do you keep a journal or a diary? What has your experience been? Or perhaps you have been inspired to start a journal now? Do comment below and let me know, I’d love to hear from you….