What is gratitude?

No one is a stranger to gratitude. We have all experienced this feeling of gratefulness at least once in our lives. Gratitude means “acknowledging the goodness in our lives” and being thankful for all that we have.

Gratitude is a powerful, overwhelming feeling that overpowers all other emotions. It is always accompanied by a deep sense of fulfillment and humility. A mere “thank you” does not suffice in the face of gratitude; you will feel like these two words simply do not represent accurately just how appreciative and grateful you are.

How does gratitude help to lead a meaningful life?

Gratitude is contagious. When you feel grateful, it spreads like wildfire even into areas of your life you would have never guessed. You start feeling thankful not only for the good but also the bad because, without the negative experiences and problems you have faced, you would not be the person you are today. And gratitude includes being grateful for the person you’ve become.

Feeling a sense of gratitude can generate even more positivity into your life. After all, you attract what you put out to the universe. Being happy and grateful just for being alive will make you develop a completely different, often brighter perspective of life. In other words, gratitude gives you a new sense of purpose and direction in life.

Research has continually shown that gratitude helps to lead a happier, healthier, and a more fulfilling and less stressed life. It has also been proven time and again to help in fighting and overcoming trauma. In fact, a study conducted in 2006, which was published in the journal Behaviour Research and Therapy, found that among American veterans of the Vietnam War, those with a relatively higher level of gratitude experienced lower levels of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder).

How to cultivate gratitude in your life

Like all other habits, gratitude too can be cultivated and made a part of our daily routine. Here is a number of ways to help you be more grateful every day.

1. Maintain a gratitude journal
Instead of merely thinking about what you are thankful for, it’s even better to write them down in a journal. Writing is a form of therapy in itself. There is something so relieving about putting into words all the thoughts that run through your head. Not only does writing down all the blessings you are grateful for reinforces positivity, it also allows you to reread them when you are feeling low.

To make the most of this practice, commit at least 5 to 10 minutes of your day to it. Whether in the morning or before bed, think clearly and jot down all that you are grateful for that particular day. Counting your blessings will surprise you with just how much you have to be thankful for.

2. Be grateful for the little things
Making gratitude a habit is like learning anything else. You have to start small, and practice regularly. Realize that you have lots of small things you can appreciate throughout the day, instead of trying to transform your entire day on the first attempt.

For example, acknowledge and appreciate a quality you admire in a friend or colleague, and let them know. The weather may be just how you like today. Take time to appreciate that. Your barista may be really sweet and always serve you coffee with a smile. Smile back and thank him/her for it. You’ll be surprised how focusing on the small things can affect the big things in the long run.

3. Spread kindness
It’s simple. Cultivate kindness to cultivate gratitude. When you do something for others without expecting anything in return, you will experience the joy of giving. Helping others will make you realize how many things you have to be grateful for – health, abilities, resources, talents and much more than you can offer.

Just listening wholeheartedly or smiling to people can brighten up their day. We all get by with a little help from others. Altruistic people often feel grateful to be able to have the chance to give back to the universe for all that they have received. Gratitude and kindness go in a cycle. The more grateful you are, the kinder you are and vice versa.

4. Mindfulness is the key
Mindfulness is a powerful tool not just to cultivate gratitude as a habit, but to change your overall life. It simply means being fully aware of your thoughts and the present moment without any judgment.

It is recommended that you practice a mindfulness meditation for at least 10 minutes as soon as you get up in the morning. It sets you in the right state of mind for the entire day. If this is not possible, meditation before bed will also do. Remember that consistency is key. It may be difficult to concentrate and be fully aware at first, but it will get easier every day. Simply focus on your breath, and tune into the peaceful silence and stillness that surround you.

5. Surround yourself with loved ones
Your environment highly influences your moods and thoughts. Thankfully, it is something that you can control. So it is very important that you spend time and surround yourself with the people you love and who return the love – friends, family, partners, and so on.

Spending time with the people who truly matter to you will make you feel good from the inside and help you realize how blessed you are to have them in your life. The sense of gratitude you develop will strengthen your relationship even more. Never forget to let them know you appreciate them, and that you care about them.

6. Don’t compare
Never compare yourself with other people. Nor should you make comparisons between other people. You never really know what is going on in a person’s life until you are in their shoes.

Social media can be misleading; people only share the best parts of their lives. So, it is no use if you keep comparing yourself to others and wallow in self-pity. It does nothing but destroys your self-esteem and confidence. This is a huge mental block for practicing gratitude. If you keep comparing yourself and focus on the things you do not have, you will never find a reason to be thankful.

Meta description: Gratitude has the power to transform your life for the better. Check out these tips on how to cultivate gratitude as a rewarding habit.