Why Gratitude Will Save Your Life (& 7 Ways to Increase It Starting Today)
I took a moment. I could feel my chest. My heart was racing.
What’s wrong with me?
It didn’t make sense.
I was 27 years old, healthy, had a good job, loving parents, great friends, involved in the community, and the list keeps going.
Yet, as I lay on my bed at 2am, overwhelmed by my life, I knew something was wrong.
It was as if, the world had been handed to me, and I had no soul. From a logical standpoint my life was great, but my heart showed otherwise.
Why can’t I appreciate?
Why do I feel this?
Why do I hate my life?
Is Everything Pointless?
At the root of happiness, fulfillment, joy, and love is a feeling of gratitude. Its the single most important feeling a person can develop. Without it, all of our emotions collapse.
You can make a million dollars, drive a fancy car, wear nice clothes, and be beautiful… But if you don’t appreciate what you have – it’s all meaningless.
Gratitude is the door to the beauty that life offers.
Which means, if you don’t have gratitude… The door is closed.
Think about your life, this moment. The fact that you have the freedom to read this post is a miracle in and of itself. By no choice of your own, you were born in a time period with near infinite access to more information than you and I could ever imagine.
You click a button type in a few words, and BAM! You have the answer.
Yet, with all this abundance we struggle to connect with our hearts.
The answer isn’t more stuff… It’s more gratitude.
This leads to a question: so if gratitude is the holy grail of all emotions… Why do we struggle to feel it?
Gratitude is Developed Through Daily Practice
If I want to become in greater physical shape, I should exercise daily. If I want to learn a foreign language I should study and practice it daily. If I want to improve my writing I should write daily… Do you see where I’m going?
Gratitude is a practice, one that develops overtime. The secret is to develop it a little bit more each day. Below are 7 specific actions I take on a daily basis that help me develop gratitude.
7 Ways To Increase Your Gratitude Starting Today
1. Develop a Gratitude List
At the end of every day, take out a pen and paper and write down 5 things you appreciated (that happened that day). Keep it simple (as anyone can appreciate a big thing). For example, maybe you ate a fantastic sandwich, noticed the kindness of a child, or found a discounted donut at the grocery store.
At the end of the week, take out your list and read it. 7 days, 5 items per day… Now, that’s a lot of gratitude.
2. Walk in Nature
A major aspect to developing gratitude is slowing down our thoughts. Sometimes, it’s really difficult to do this. There is something magical about nature that slows down our minds. Just walk and use your senses. Listen to the sounds, notice the colors, feel your environment
Walking in nature draws on our many senses, which leads to a heightened awareness. And awareness is imperative to increase our gratitude.
3. Write Your “Love List”
This one is a mix of fun and awkward. Take out a piece of paper and write down 10 people in your life that you love. Then underneath their name write down 10 reasons you love them. Now below your list of reasons write 3 ways each person has had a positive impact on your life.
People are so important to our lives. Yet, it’s really easy to forget this. This activity brings those we love to the forefront.
If you are ready to take it to the next level then choose 1 person from the list and tell them what you wrote (Warning: they might cry).
4. Start using the phrase “I Get To…”
Language is very impactful. Often we end up using phrases such as “I have to…” but in reality it’s a blessing that you get that opportunity.
If you go to the doctor and you discover you are overweight you don’t “have to” exercise. In fact, you are lucky he caught in time! You “get to” exercise.
Everyday is a blessing. You “get to” go to a job and bring home a paycheck to your family. You “get to” wake up early to take on the day. You “get to” teach your children how to be good citizens.
5. Exercise Daily
In every single way, exercise improves our life. The reasons are simple… It impacts our energy, focus, attitude, and how long we live.
When you are running up a massive mountain, or doing push ups and lifting weights… 1 minute is a huge amount of time. It’s teaching us how to be present.
Exercise is an investment in the next hour of your life. If you do it now, you are dramatically increasing the quality of your day. If you make it a daily practice then it will start to compound.
6. Carry an “Awesome Sticky” Everywhere You Go
Jim Rohn, a brilliant business philosopher has a beautiful line “Don’t trust your memory”.
We go through each and everyday with so many thoughts. Some of these thoughts are darn good, even borderline brilliant! But within a few minutes they are gone.
Everywhere I go I carry a small stack of post it notes and a pen in my pocket. Then anytime I have an idea or a good thought I write it down. Sometimes I have questions that I want to know. I write that down too.
By taking the time to write down your thoughts, you will heighten your awareness which will increase your gratitude.
7. Just Breathe and Be Aware of it
This is the simplest of all the things on this list, and yet very few of us ever do it. I’m not talking about the breathing you’re doing right now. I’m talking about a deep calm breath and then letting it out.
Feel the air go into your lungs, down to your stomach. Then let it out slowly. Feel it move through your body.
As you do this, allow your mind to flow with it.
The power in this activity is that it forces you to slow down. It forces you to feel your life, to see where things are going.
Developing Gratitude is a practice. Don’t try to take on too many things from this list. Just choose 1 and run with it. Give it a shot and see if it works.
What strategy will you use to help you increase your gratitude?
What strategies (that are not on the list) do you use to increase your gratitude?
Photo by Ansel Edwards Photography