Time to Read (usng avg wpm): 7.5 mins
Eat your dinner, there are kids in the world starving.
That’s what we were always told when we were growing up. We would scrunch up our faces and roll our eyes- “okay, then go to the post office and mail them this crud.”
But there’s real wisdom in that saying. Not in the sense that you should stuff yourself because others are starving, that’s dumb.
But that there is a lot to be grateful for if you grew up in a place with plenty of food.
What should be said in those instances is, “wow you really ate until you were full, you must be very grateful that you had that opportunity.”
If that were the case; growing up with a consistently strengthened sense of gratitude would make us all happier people.
Having a sense of gratitude has been proven to make people feel better and happier but why is that? and how do we use it?
- The Science
- Methods and Techniques
- Final Words
So it’s the new hit thing to proclaim gratitude as the one stop shop for positive mental health, but can we back it up?
Yes. Here are some different, reputable, science-based sources standing behind the practice of gratitude:
… we can deliberately cultivate gratitude, and can increase our well-being and happiness by doing so. In addition, gratefulness (…) is associated with increased energy, optimism, and empathy.
and this one:
It has been established that gratitude leads to benefits for both mental health and interpersonal relationships.
and my favorite:
They’re finding that people who practice gratitude consistently report a host of benefits:
- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure;
- Higher levels of positive emotions;
- More joy, optimism, and happiness;
- Acting with more generosity and compassion;
- Feeling less lonely and isolated.
So the benefits of a gratitude practice stack pretty high.
Gratitude is all about being thankful. That’s it. It’s super easy, high ROI (return on investment) stuff.
Here are a few studies if you want to read up on more science:
- Gratitude associated with moral cognition, value judgment and theory of mind
- Randomized controlled trial; gratitude group showed significant improvement- other groups did not.
- Gratitude jibber jabber
Now let’s get to the good stuff.
Methods and Techniques
How to gratituditize.
So you wake up and you are on a raft in the middle of the ocean.
The night before, you dropped your ice-cream and fell out of the boat while you were reaching for it. The throttle was on, full-tilt, and the boat drove off without you.
You pulled your inflatable cube from your pocket and yanked on the rip cord. Pfffffffffffft! Suddenly there was a raft.
But now you’ve been up all night worried about what you are going to do and sulking over the ice-cream.
But there is one good thing. You still have your ham sandwich. Just the way you like it. Ham and mustard. You pull it out of your pocket and go to take a bite and- a bird snatches it from your hands.
Now birds don’t really have control over their when they poop, it just happens- and you know that.
But this bird takes your sandwich, gives you a look, and, from what you can tell, intentionally poops on you.
So what can you be grateful for?
That’s right. Nothing.
I told you this story to bring up the idea of comparison gratitude.
Comparison gratitude is the ability to recognize that you are in a bad situation but, in comparison, are actually doing very well so you give thanks and become grateful.
Say I lock my keys in my car and have to call my brother to come with my spare key and now I’m going to be late for my meeting.
Instead of stressing out and making the situation worse I just say,
“Hey, at least I’m not stranded on a raft in the middle of the sea, dealing with a sociopathic pelican,”
and suddenly I feel way better.
This is when you keep a record of your gratitude.
It can be written, shot as a video, audio recorded on a voice recorder, etc…
You could write what you are grateful for on a slip of paper and put in it a ‘grateful jar.’
There are many different ways to do this but there is a technique.
To get the most out of your gratitude practice you must:
- Be specific.
- Be consistent.
- Actually feel grateful.
But wait, how specific?
I’m glad you asked. Very specific. If you decided to practice gratitude daily but all you ever said you were grateful for were the obvious things, then your head would explode.
You wouldn’t be able to pull feeling out of, “I’m grateful for my family,” after the 158th time.
I heard it on a podcast, I don’t remember which one (I really have to get better at giving these podcasts credit), that being specific and random is what keeps gratitude interesting while still retaining the benefits.
During your practice, be grateful for things like:
-Wow, what a pretty cloud outside. I am grateful that that cloud is there for me to look at.
-Wow, I am so grateful that every day I can cruise along roads at 3x the speed of a cheetah in a metal box with wheels.
-Wow, I am so grateful that I have feet, for obvious reasons.
-Wow, these opposable thumbs are fantastic. I’m so grateful that I’m not a bear.
This is a practice that you don’t have to record, you just think about. If you choose this route, you should shoot for consistency. The benefits of anything meditative, which this is, stack up.
The same three guidelines apply as above; be specific, consistent and actually feel grateful.
Some choose to do this in their actual meditation practice. (I do pranayama so I try not to use any contemplation during my meditation.)
You could just look out the window every night and think about something small that you are grateful for.
Bonus points for expressing gratitude to others.
Make your relationship with that person stronger, while you both walk away feeling ingratiated.
Let someone close to you know that you are grateful to have them in your life. Write a letter, call them on the phone, or even text them.
Being so grateful sure makes me feel great.
I’m not on a raft in the heart of the sea-
I’m grateful that I am not that guy’s first mate.
It is such a wonderful thing to be me.
There’s always much food in my bowl- I mean plate.
It’s all that I need to enjoy and be free.
Of course, things could be better- I’m working on that
In the meantime, I’ll revel that I’m not a cat.
Crate Full of Grateful, an Ottava rima by Doug
End of Intermission.
Now I mentioned some DIY ways to practice gratitude and those are great ways to do it- but what’s so great about society today is you don’t always have to spend the mental fuel in figuring things out. Here are some apps and tools designed to help you practice gratitude.
This one, I think, would be my favorite gratitude app.
It’s free. It has tons of different positive psychology sections to answer, like:
- Best Possible Future
- Gratitude Journal
- Honoring People
- and more… 8 in total
What I like best about it is that you can set reminders for each one.
I would set it to remind me about the Gratitude Journal entry every day. Then, every day I would write a new entry. They don’t overwrite either so you can look back at all of your previous entries.
Gratitude Journal – The Life-changing App
This one costs five dollars.
But- I would like this one too because it has a notebook look and feel to it. You can add pictures and quotes, it can sync across devices and you can share your entries to social media.
I would link it up but I’ve only found it on itunes and I hate itunes with the deepest essences of my being.
Anyway, if you are interested, check it out in your app store.
I’ve mentioned before that using gratitude consistently is much more beneficial than randomly and occasionally doing so. Not to say that practicing gratitude only at random is a bad thing, it’s a great thing. But if you want the health benefits and longer lasting positivity, you have a better shot through a daily gratitude practice.
I use contemplative gratitude at night before I go to bed. It gives me a good feeling and helps me to wind down and get to sleep.
I also use comparative gratitude all the time.
Life really is all about perception. Half of the world would trade anything to live the way you are living and 99% of the people from 1,000 years ago would trade spots in an instant.
Life is good. Be grateful. Relax and enjoy your day.
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