Originally a guest post on www.lifehack.org
“‘Gratitude is the fairest blossom which springs from the soul.” — Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887)
It is no secret that gratefulness is correlated with life satisfaction and happiness. Countless research findings, particularly in the rapidly emerging field of Positive Psychology, have shown that gratefulness and life satisfaction go hand in hand. Those who tend to be more grateful rather than bitter are generally more positive, more satisfied with their lives, and will be able to see the silver lining even on cloudy days.
Despite this intuitive understanding of the importance of gratefulness, all too often when life throws us curve balls, this grateful mindset all but disappears. It certainly is easier to be grateful when you are on a winning team and things go in your favor. However, the true test of resiliency and gratefulness is when life does not go your way. If you find yourself losing more than you are winning, and can’t seem to get over past regrets, disappointments and life’s injustices, gratefulness is overturned by a sense of injustice. Experiencing loss, frustration and even trauma, especially if we feel blindsided, certainly can make it difficult not to indulge in negative feelings. After all, we might wonder, when things go wrong what really do we have to be grateful about?
No matter what happens to us, if we “dig deep” we often can find that there is really plenty to be thankful for in our lives. The following are the 10 top habits of people who remain steadfast in their ability to be grateful, and can temper the blows life gives them with an unwavering “attitude of gratitude” mindset:
- Grateful people don’t expect that life is going to give them everything they deserve. They realize that good things do not always happen to good people, and they have given up the notion that life “owes them” anything more than it can offer. Cancer, afflictions, and even the death of innocent people are unfortunately part of life. Tsunamis and natural disasters can wipe out even a community of unsuspecting people, and the unfairness of life is regrettable and tragic for sure. The question is not if life is unfair, but can we move on in spite of it.
- They do not have preconditions to their happiness. They do not think “If this happens” only then “I will be happy.” They understand happiness is not coming from the outside, but from within. They focus more on their adjustment to what happens rather than try to change what can not be changed.They do not attempt to micromanage people and things in their lives that are not really in their control.
- People who are grateful have realized that you can not have the rainbow without the rain. Furthermore, they know that you don’t have honey without the bee, and you can’t have the rose without the thorns. They see rainy days as a normal part of life rather than an aberration, and learn from the rain rather than just wait for it to go away. They admire the beauty of the rose even though it has its thorny side, and savor the sweet taste of honey even though the bee can sting. Realizing you can not have one without the other, they are grateful for both.
- Grateful people have hope. No matter what happens, hope is not lost. They realize the future is uncertain, and while they plan for it, they do not try to micromanage outcomes that are beyond their sphere of influence. They take comfort in the fact that once the sun sets, it rises the next day. They have faith that there is more to life. They hack life rather than feel hacked by life.
- Those who are steeped in bitterness and grudges have no space in their heart to be grateful. Forgiving your spouse for not being as understanding as you would have been, forgiving your children for making choices that would not have been your own, and giving up the grudge of a slight or injustice from a friend, are all parts of the gratitude equation. Forgive others for not acting or being like you had hoped. Maybe you need to set limits on your interaction with them, or distance yourself altogether as in the case of abuse, but carrying the torch of bitterness is going to hurt you more than them. As Buddha said, “Holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.”
- People who are grateful know that a grateful attitude takes work. Gratefulness does not always come naturally, especially in the most challenging times. In such times, grateful people work on keeping a good perspective. They might read affirmations, seek support form others, get help for their sadness or anxiety. Some will seek counseling and do not shy away from the effort it takes.
- Grateful people have healthy thinking habits. They go by the motto, “Think Straight – Feel Great!” They can separate their perceptions from the facts and separate rational from victim-like irrational ways of thinking. For example, they will replace victim self- talk such as “They make me so mad” to victor self-talk such as “I was mad when they did that.” All-or-nothing irrational thinking such as “It’s awful” and “I can’t stand it” is reserved for the most life threatening circumstance, rather than everyday petty annoyances and slights.
- Grateful people are flexible in their thinking. People who think flexibly are at an advantage in life, as flexibility is the key to growth and wisdom. They don’t cling stubbornly with ways of thinking that do not work, and do not need to see a shift in attitude as meaning a personal defeat and referendum of how wrong they used to be. They realize they can choose their perceptions and have a right to change their minds. With this mentality, the doors that close yield others that now become open.
- People who love to learn tend to be grateful. Each setback or unforeseen life event offers us lessons, and grateful people focus more on the lessons they can get out of each situation rather than the disappointments. After all, life is a great teacher and teaches us things that no one ever could. Even mistakes and failures are seen as learning opportunities.
- Grateful people define their self worth by their determination and their dreams, not their regrets and disappointments. A grateful mindset has no room for excessive self-recrimination and low self esteem. People who are stuck in past regrets and see themselves as losers in life or as having failed badly in even certain areas of their lives will not be able to be truly grateful. Positive self esteem sets the foundation for gratefulness. So if you are down on yourself, this is a time to get a mental health tune up!
How about starting a Gratefulness campaign in your own life? Start now by writing down at least 10 things you are thankful for. How about sharing some of them by commenting below?
(By the way…thanks for reading. I am very grateful!)