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Gratitude means taking time to notice and feel thankful for the things in your life.
Gratitude is not taking things for granted. In a world where we often take things for granted, taking a moment out of every day to feel grateful for all our privileges and rights can make an immense difference in our outlook on life and personal health.
Studies have shown that practicing gratitude increases our well-being and happiness. People who feel more thankful tend to be more satisfied with their lives, which in turn increases hormones of happiness and improve our immune system and overall well-being. It is because gratitude puts situations into perspective: seeing things from a point of gratitude lessens panic and anxiety by reminding you there are good things in your life that you should be happy for. Every time you feel that rush of panic rising, it’s the perfect time to remind yourself that things could be worse and make you thankful for the way things are.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude means taking time to notice and be thankful for the things in your life. It is the opposite of wanting something, anything. It means being thankful for the way things are instead of focusing on the way you want things to be or trying to change things to the way they used to be. It is the difference between living in the now and living in a potential future or long gone past. Being grateful for what you have, where you are, and for not being stuck in a situation that you could have been in, or simply being grateful for every single morning you opened your eyes to this world. In the consumer-driven society of today where you are taught to always strive and seek for more, it has become significantly more difficult to focus on the things that you have as opposed to the things you want. You have to remind yourself that the job you have was just a desire a few months ago, or the car you’re driving was a dream car just a few weeks before, yet already you are looking for an upgrade to both.
Be grateful for little things
We find it easier to be thankful for the big things, like getting a promotion at work or receiving a gift, but what about simple things like somebody holding a door for you, for the smell of the fresh coffee in the morning or finding a perfect parking spot? Those are little things that life is made of, the connecting tissue of our lives and they set the tone for everything else in our lives. Once you learn to notice little things and feel grateful for them, you become like a magnet for nice things to come your way, both small and big.
Gratitude is not taking things for granted
If something bad was to happen which would deprive you of something you already have you would realize how important that actually was to you but you never appreciated it enough. How many of you walk the streets, aware of your legs and feeling grateful for having legs that are taking you places? Or being able to see the world around you or hear the sounds of your favorite song? Since I was a kid people used to compliment my hair: both color and quality saying that it was ravishing. It wasn’t until recently that I became aware of how I felt and reacted to such compliments: I would usually say polite “Thank you” all the while thinking “it is just my hair” not even trying to appreciate how nice it really was. That was until one of my friends told me she had had similar hair, all long and nice but one day it just started falling off for no known reason. Suddenly it snapped me out of this “it’s just my hair” attitude to realize that that hair might not stay on my head forever. From that moment on I started paying more attention to the things I was given like hands, teeth, hair and other physical features that I took for granted. We tend to take things for granted arrogantly believing we are entitled to health, happiness and other things we are bestowed with, not realizing that we could end up or even be born without them. Learn to appreciate and enjoy things and situations life has blessed you with. Don’t wait until you lose them to realize their value.
Luckily gratitude is something that can be practiced and thought. It is the same as any other form of physical exercise: the more you do it the more natural it will come to you. Your brain in time becomes wired to find things in your life you should be grateful for. One of my favorite exercises is the one where every evening before falling to sleep I place my hands on my heart and think of five things/situations from a passing day that I am grateful for. I have tried it while in the shower which works better if you are tired so that you won’t fall asleep while thinking of the third thing you are grateful for.
Here is a link to a wonderful guide to gratitude practices. Find the one that suits you best and open your eyes to how amazing your life actually is.