How to build an attitude of gratitude

How to build an attitude of gratitude

“What you think, you become. What you feel, you attract. What you imagine, you create.”

-Buddha

If life has ever thrown you a curveball, you’ll know it can feel so defeating to not have the power over the circumstances and events that put us off balance- but not all hope is lost. There is something that you can always change, something you can control, something that will make it that little bit better- and that is your attitude. 

Enter gratitude…

When we shift our focus towards gratitude, it has the ability to bring immediate feelings of happiness and contentment. And while it helps us to overcome the difficult situations we may encounter, it isn’t a cure-all magic potion- it can’t make injustice, loss or pain disappear, but it can make things that little bit more bearable. 

Gratitude is defined as having a ‘thankful appreciation for what we have’, and research has found that experiencing gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation tends to foster positive feelings, which in turn, contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing. When we have a positive mindset, it changes our perspective and focuses on what we already have instead of what we lack. There are a few different ways we can express gratitude, they are: 

  • Retrospectively- Thankful for the past, positive experiences and memories
  • Present- Not taking your current situation for granted
  • Future- Hopeful and optimistic about future experiences to come

Mindful benefits of gratitude

For most of us, it doesn’t come natural to focus on the things we’re grateful for, after all it’s easy to become worn out by life and not feel as grateful as we perhaps should. Having said that, with practice we can experience the mindful benefits of gratitude.

Neuroscientists have studied the perks of practising an attitude of gratitude and discovered that it can actually change the molecular structure of your brain- meaning you have the ability to make gratitude your default setting, and when you do that, you change how you see life…

Gratitude allows you to live in the present moment

During times when you feel anxious, gratitude helps distract you from these thoughts so you can see beyond the anxiety, and connect to the present moment. When we’re in the present moment, there’s a lot less to feel anxious about.

While anxiety feels heavy, gratitude feels light, and turns our focus away from all the painful and difficult parts of our life towards the ordinary greatness that is available in every moment. By appreciating the present, we feel less of a need to control the future. Thus, we’re able to relax.

Gratitude makes you feel better about yourself

Ever been in a bad mood and can’t get out of it? Next time, try this: express gratitude. This is one of the quickest ways to turn around your mood. When you express gratitude, you recognise that people care about you and have done a lot for you, and you’ll see how this has positively impacted your life.

This can strengthen your positive sense of self, and dials down self-doubt and negative thinking. You can look back on the past and be thankful for the experiences you’ve had, the people you’ve met, and the lessons you’ve learnt. You can do this by writing a list of things you’re grateful for, say them out loud or create a voice note for yourself. 

Gratitude allows you to be kind to others and reap the rewards

When your gratitude is aimed at those around you, you feel better about yourself because you’re recognising and emotionally giving to others. Gratitude helps people build strong relationships and research has found that those who purposefully express gratitude report high self-esteem.

Gratitude can also help change the way you view yourself, and those who feel more gratitude are less likely to compare themselves to others. Building up your self-esteem is essential, as low self-esteem is linked to depression, anxiety, and difficulty in relationships.

Gratitude pulls you out of your negative mindset

When you’re stressed, much of your thinking is automatic thanks to the stress cycle, and when you ruminate on these negative thoughts, it’s easy to hit a downward spiral. But by expressing gratitude, you give your thinking a more positive purpose, and you feel better and less stressed.

This is because gratitude rewires your brain, by kickstarting the production of dopamine and serotonin (the feel-good hormones). Over time, this self-perpetuating way of thinking will build a positive mindset. 

Gratitude puts things into perspective

Gratitude provides you with a sense of balance that can stop feelings of discouragement and unhappiness. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis can change the way you look at things and as a result, put your life into perspective.

It’s easy to get upset about inconsequential things, but when you start realising the unsung ordinary in everyday life, your attitude will change because it makes you appreciate what you have rather than what you don’t have. 

3 Ways you can cultivate an attitude of gratitude 

Practicing gratitude doesn’t have to be a tricky task. There are many simple ways to cultivate a habit of gratitude and build a more positive mindset: 

1. Express your gratitude to those around you- Whether you choose to volunteer, hold a door open for a stranger, thank a colleague, or compliment a friend, expressing your gratitude is a self-promoting exercise that makes you feel more positive about yourself and opens up the door for satisfying relationships. 

2. Capture your gratitude- Start a gratitude journal or create a gratitude jar so when the time comes and you need a little reminder of all the good and magical things to be grateful for, you’ve got a visual memento to help. 

3. Find your gratitude in the everyday- Look for the joy in the little, ordinary and unnoticed things of everyday life. This might be warm coffee in the morning, long walks on a sunny day, or a good night’s sleep. You’ll feel more positive about how you view life, and learn not to take the simple things for granted. 

PS…

An attitude of gratitude will help you to experience more positive emotions, deal with adversity and build strong relationships. However, gratitude should not be a reason to run away from negative emotions, after all, experiencing the ups with the downs is all part of the human experience.

Using gratitude as an escape from your emotions won’t facilitate growth, but practicing gratitude on a daily basis will help you better deal with negative events and emotions as you learn to build a positive mindset. 

2 responses to “How to build an attitude of gratitude”

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