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
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30 thoughts on “Why Gratitude Will Save Your Life (& 7 Ways to Increase It Starting Today)”
Thanks for reminding us all yet again of how important gratitude is as a daily practice. It is so easy to get caught up in routine and gratitude is the one thing that can pull you back and remind you of what is truly important.
All of your suggestions are great–the only one I would add is something I did back in November when I did a Thirty Day “Gratitude Challenge”…I wrote about it here for anyone who is interested: http://smartliving365.com/lessons-from-gratitude-day-22-of-the-smart-living-30-day-gratitude-challenge/
Of course your suggestion about just doing ONE THING every day is the key. And “thank you” for this post! ~kg
What’s up Kathy.
I think the most important thing above all else is to do something, learn from it, and then make the necessary adjustments. It’s all a process.
Thanks for sharing your tips.
Hey Izzy! What a great dialogue you’ve opened up here around this topic! I so agree that gratitude is the one practice that can transform our lives in so many way AND that it’s easy to forget about if we don’t keep reminding ourselves. Thanks AGAIN for reminding me by your gracious reply to all our comments! Today I am really grateful for you! ~kg
Well thank you. One of my favorite things about writing posts for The Change blog are the awesome insights of the readers. It really makes it a lot of fun!
I’ve seen the idea of changing your wording around quite often. Personally, I have not yet given that a try yet, but I’ll have that be my first of the list to tackle.
Gratitude is a funny thing. I practice this gesture constantly, however with some people they are weary when you portray your gratitude, it makes them feel uncomfortable and I can sense mistrust when I effuse over something they have done or said to me. Hey, ho, I will continue with my gratitude as I understand and follow the law of attraction. Nice reminder of a post.
What’s up Vincent.
Yeah man, wording is a huge deal. The difference between positive emotions and negative emotions is just a few difference in words.
What’s up Joan :).
I think the most important thing is to make sure it is very genuine. Nothing is more flattering than sincere gratitude, and few things are more insulting than insincere gratitude. If one or two people reject your gratitude that might just be them. But if you have numerous people turning it away, then I think you have to start looking at how you present it.
Or the other option, would be to really reflect on the people you are surrounding yourself with. Either which way I think some serious reflection could be super powerful.
Gratitude does require daily practice. So many folks assume that it is a character trait that cannot be changed.
Your suggestions are easy to implement and will definitely make a positive difference.
A new one to me is consciously using “I get to.” What a powerful reminder of the abundance we have in our lives! it’s so important to note the things we so often take for granted, such as getting to clean our homes or shoveling our driveways clear of snow.
Thanks for the reminder and your ideas.
I agree! It’s so much more worthwhile to focus on and develop positive emotions like gratitude. I think that sadly the world has much less graditude than ever before. But I think to truly be happy it does need to be practiced and developed. I also especially like your point of “I get to”, every breath we take, our friends and family, and getting to meet new people, there are so many things in life we are privileged to have.
You know Kia, it’s one of those things that so much of us take for granted that we eventually lose it and then don’t understand why we are so unhappy.
It blows my mind. But at the same time I understand it. We have daily stresses and challenges. To be told “Just appreciate everyone and everything and it will be all good” can sound a little bit out of touch. But in reality, it’s really in touch. Though, practical steps are needed (which I feel like this post was able to do).
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Kia, I think you hit upon a crucial point that the world has less gratitude. I believe cultural messages, i.e. marketing, are to intended to make us feel we must keep up with the proverbial Joneses. They are designed to push our buttons of discontent and envy, to make us ungrateful for what we have.
What’s up Kim :).
I must confess, I got that one from my father. He is 67 years old and a few years back the doctor told him he needed to start exercising more. Now, when he talks about his exercise program he see’s it as a huge blessing that he is able to exercise. He always uses the phrase “I get to…”
Gratitude is a great technique to use when you are feeling down.
I love walking in nature, being present and being grateful for what surrounds me. I believe Gratitude is an energy and that energy brings back what we need. It is wonderful.
Thanks Izzy for the article and all the great things you are doing in your life because you know the meaning of gratitude.
Hi Karen :).
I’m gonna have to challenge you on this one. I don’t consider gratitude something that we should use just when we are feeling down. And I don’t consider it a “technique”.
I think gratitude is something we should practice daily no matter how we feel. In fact, if you make it a daily practice you will feel awesome.
I also don’t consider it a technique. I think it is imperative for living a meaningful life.
I needed to read this today! Memory really cannot be trusted, as practising gratitude is something I *already know* I should do !
This year I started a ‘happy jar’, which is basically being filled up with post-its that I’ve written when I have something good happen, or something to be thankful for. I cannot wait to read it at the end of the year !
A happy jar! I LOVE THAT IDEA.
The name is awesome, the idea is awesome, and now by association you are also awesome!
I’m adopting this one… or something like it.
Hi I was slightly sad at your reply. You didn’t get or understand my comment but that is OK. I totally agree with your thoughts on gratitude, but you don’t seem to be aware that for some when they get low, depressed or anxious and I see this in my clients, that the thought of being grateful is too much for them to do or think about. But I know that the essence of being in gratitude is powerful and can change emotional states and perspectives. Whether it is a technique or practice, well I believe it might be both. Here is a extract (Not my writing) that may throw light on semantics or definitions.
(just remembering to say “thank you” to the persons and events contributing to your life is a way of expressing gratitude. The Essenes had a technique they called the “Great Gratitude,” which involved the conscious practice of offering such thanks. One way to start would be to extend the act of saying grace before meals to beginning each of your activities in this manner. Eventually, you may find yourself simply feeling grateful for the gratitude that permeates your life and you will know you have arrived.)
Wise tips,Izzy. Thanks. Expressing gratitude for something good done to me makes me feel good, light and exuberant. I start the day thanking God for giving me life and sustaining me ( I wonder why people do not talk of god these days as if He has nothing to do with us ). I thank Nature next for giving so much joy through its myriad facets. Next I remember my parents for having toiled so hard to bring up an obstreperous human being. Next is the circle of friends and also some unknown persons who smiled and talked sweetly to me.The list gets larger.
Mahavir, thank you for this beautiful comment! Your response is evidence of your gratitude and what you have done to make it a daily practice.
Why don’t people talk about God? That is a good question. I think (just my 2 cents) is because people are very sensitive to this issue so most people stay away from it… If you head to my site you will notice that I do discuss God and how he has impacted my life. I don’t force it upon anyone but I do share His impact on me.
Awesome comment man.
Agreed, Mahavir! I begin my day with prayer, and an integral part of that is thankfulness. I have found that more I concentrate on what to be thankful for, the longer my list grows. I am always amazed at the abundance, but especially how I can find gratitude for the thornier things in my life. What we seek is what we will find. :-)
I love the idea of incorporating “I get to” into my life, rather than I have to. It’s so easy to get bogged down with responsibilities that everything feels like work, when it’s all truly a blessing. Every day is for sure. My 14 yr old nephew died in a tragic car accident over a year ago, and since then my life just has not been the same. Everything is a bit more precious, seems a bit more fragile. I’m going to take your words to heart and incorporate the attitude of gratitude, beginning now!
As I washed the dishes this morning I was grateful for my hands.
Best post I’ve read today. Well done you.
you’ve indeed written a very good and interesting post. What I’d like to add (change), is the time at which we practice gratitude. I’ve personally noticed, that I’m much more grateful in the morning, than in the evening .. I don’t quite know why, but I somehow am.
I like to take 30 minutes right after I wake up and compose a list of 10 things I’m most grateful for. I also list the reasons why I’m grateful for these things (as recommended by Rhonda Byrne in ‘The Magic’). After composing my list, I take my time to read and (try to) feel the gratitude for each and every one of the entries.
I’d also like to point out the importance of cultivating a habit of gratitude. Its like meditation – you get better with practice (with time). Don’t rush it.
Izzy, nice to see some nice words being said about one of the least favored virtues of modern times. In search of individual glory and happiness, this is one thing many people forget to do in life. People don’t have gratitude towards nature, society, friends, and above all one’s parents and family. It feels awful when somebody showing gratitude is being laughed at, and is “forced” to move away from it because it comes as an obstacle in their selfish notions of happiness. I tried expressing similar thoughts in one of my blog posts, but the kind of restrained comments I got make me sad. It may sound unrealistic or too idealistic to talk about gratitude, but the fact is that the absence of this virtue is one of the reasons of the downward spiral today’s society finds itself in.
Huge fan of this article. Excellent little ideas of how to apply gratitude in one’s life. Sometimes that can be difficult with the disconnection we get from being so connected to everything.
Thanks for sharing this.
This is what keeps me grateful everyday! Thank you everyone!
Beautiful post. I will try to inculcate such habit in my kid. And I am thankful, that I can start early. She is only 9-year-old.
Wonderful suggestions to make us more grateful which will make us happier. I say at least five things I’m grateful for before bed each night which inspired my writing the children’s book, BEFORE I SLEEP: I SAY THANK YOU, Pauline Books and Media, 2015. I hope it will influence families to start their little ones on a nightly habit of gratitude. I think it will make the world a sweeter place. I’d love if you could share the trailer when appropriate: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qbf_KXG73HY
Thank you for these great suggestions. I have been doing #1 and #5 for awhile now. I’m going to focus on #4. I get to….