An Attitude of Gratitude

I’m sitting on my patio with my two dogs by my feet preparing to write about gratitude and I realize that is exactly what I am feeling today.

My blessings are numerous. I have a career I am passionate about, good friends, and extended family. I live in an area that I love and have picked up a new hobby — golf. In fact, my patio looks onto a golf course so I still marvel at the luxury of living in a home with a backyard on the 6th hole which has become an extension of my office. I can go on and on, finding things to be grateful for right now. But you and I know that gratitude is something you have to work at… everyday.

As a matter of fact, I had planned to write this article the other day, but I was feeling anything but grateful. My computer program had gone haywire — causing me to lose an important training manual I was working on — so I wasted hours on the phone with technical support, to no avail. To add to my not so pleasant mood, my daughter was supposed to start a new job that day but her employer failed to take the proper steps to complete her onboarding. So, she is still not working! Ugh! To top that off, a wrist injury was causing me struggles on the golf course. It was acting up and throbbing all day; a visit to the doctor was definitely my next stop.

So, as you can imagine, I did not write about gratitude that day. Thank goodness Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough did not feel the same way. You see, they are two of the leading American authors and researchers of gratitude. They describe gratitude as — the ability to be keenly aware of the good things that happen to you and never take them for granted. Their research shows that grateful individuals possess a high level of wonder, thankfulness, and appreciation for life itself.

Researchers are finding that individuals who exhibit and express the most gratitude are happier, healthier, and more energetic. Grateful people report fewer symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, nausea, even acne! And the more a person is inclined towards gratitude, the less lonely, stressed, anxious, and depressed he or she will be.

So instead of remembering to be grateful, I tucked myself into bed thinking tomorrow is another day. And sure enough, I woke up feeling off kilter. I did not feel the joy I typically felt when facing a new morning. I had not done my gratitude work. It would appear that counting our blessings on a regular basis does impact our moods and overall level of happiness.

But how do you express gratitude when nothing seems to be going right, or life presents great challenges and adversity? Is it really possible to express gratitude when you are not feeling you have anything to be grateful for? I.e. Computer, daughter, wrist…

Here are some ways to start practicing gratitude:
  1. Keep a gratitude journal. At the end of each day, write down three to five things from the day you feel grateful for. Keep it simple. Your daughter’s smile, a sale at Macy’s, the bus arriving on time, a perfect cup of coffee.
  2. Express your gratitude. Share your feelings. Tell your friend how much they mean to you. Say I love you to your partner and mean it. Don’t take your loved ones for granted. Let them know how much you love them and why.
  3. Look for what is right about a situation, not what’s wrong. Sure you’re frustrated because the food you ordered has arrived cold and the service is poor, be thankful you can afford an evening out with good friends.
  4. Practice gratitude with your family and friends. Although you may not say grace before a meal, encourage each family member to report one thing that happened that day that they feel grateful for. When you hear a friend moaning and complaining, challenge him or her to find the silver lining to the situation.

So, the other night I wish I could have hit the rewind button. Lying in bed reviewing all my troubles of the day, I wish I had reminded myself to practice gratitude. I would have been grateful that even though the computer technology drove me crazy that day, it also allowed me to connect with friends by email and text — how lucky I am to live in a time where communication is so easy. And although things weren’t off to a good start, my daughter has a job despite a difficult track record. And about that wrist injury, I am grateful just to be able to enjoy this stage of my life, aches and pains should be my badge of courage and survival. So, with just a little bit of gratitude and the help of the rewind button I began to laugh and remember the slogan on my slippers… life is good!

For today, the warm breeze off the golf course and the singing of the birds all fill my heart with gratitude and joy! What are you grateful for today? Begin your journal today and let me know what happens. Share your stories of gratitude, I would love to hear from you. Gratitude matters. I am grateful for you.

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