Learning to Be Grateful

By Maria Martinez
Blog Content Contributor

New year, new me, new resolutions. Each year is the same old story… We start the year with a new attitude, saying that this time, we are finally going to change. We say we will start working out five days a week, eat healthy and won’t spend money in things we don’t need; but, the truth is, after one month we probably are going to stop doing all of these things. This year, I decided to try to do something I hadn’t tried before. It is something doable, it doesn’t cost me a penny and it only takes me a couple of minutes of my day to do it: being grateful.

The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. People who regularly practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, reduced depression, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness and even have stronger immune systems.

Gratitude doesn’t need to be reserved only for big occasions: Sure, you are obviously going to express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as having a Netflix account. It is so easy to take things for granted. We forget that one day, we might lose someone or something we have right now because we are so used to having it. We are always in a rush or so stressed that we don’t even take the time to sit back and look at how blessed you are.

It is important to set aside time in your day to recall moments of gratitude; at least the top three things that happened to you on that day. I try to be super specific with what I am grateful. I just don’t say, “I am thankful for my family.” Instead, I say, “I am thankful my mom took care of me while I was sick.” In this way, I don’t just do it in automatically; I put my brain to work to start noticing the little things that make a difference. I also avoid repeating the same stuff every day because really, there is always something new to be thankful for.

I was doing some research, and I found out “gratitude isn’t one-size-fits-all,” sociologist and happiness expert Christine Carter, PhD said. There are a million ways to give thanks! Some people are really creative and have very unique techniques of doing it, and these are the ones that I liked the most:

  • Grateful board: Since the two primary obstacles to gratefulness are forgetfulness and a lack of mindful awareness, having a board is the perfect way to remember how blessed you are. In the same way that you would do a goal board, you can have pictures and messages of what is that you are thankful for and every time you see it, you will feel lucky for what you have.
  • Journal: Every morning or night, whatever works best for you, write. Keeping a gratitude journal can reinforce positive thoughts, something particularly helpful as the brain tends to naturally focus on what goes wrong. Focus more on people and experiences, rather than on materialistic stuff that don’t necessarily last very long.
  • Gratitude jar: Every time you experience a moment of gratitude, write it down and put it on a jar. On New Year’s Eve you can empty the jar and review everything you wrote throughout the year. It will make you feel happy to remember all those special times.  

Commit to it. Find a partner to do it with you if you think you might forget to do it. It only takes 21 days to form a habit, so if you can do it for one month straight, you will be on to the right path.

Be happy with what you currently have, not sad with what you lack. After starting to give thanks, you’ll soon realize you lack nothing. Despite the fact that you might only have $20 in your bank account right now, you are more privileged than many people walking on earth.

“The things you take for granted, someone else is praying for.”

Featured image by Maria Martinez.

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