7 Ways to Cultivate Gratitude
Gratitude is to the health and happiness of our heart, like a protective ground cover is to the health and happiness of a beautiful garden.
Sometimes, the wellbeing of the garden is threatened by enemies, such as weeds, weather, and debris. Just like a garden, gratitude also has enemies. Destructive habits. These habits, like the weeds and rubble in a garden, need to be rooted out, dug up, and thrown away in order for a spirit of thankfulness to flourish in the garden of our lives.
The first step to cultivating the ground cover of gratitude in our lives and opening our heart to happiness is to dig up all the weeds! We need to thoroughly examine our life, and look for any sign of those habits that block our ability to see the beautiful gifts and blessings we have.
The second step toward happiness is to plant and nurture the “ground cover” of gratitude in our lives. Similar to the amenities we use to provide the optimal growing environment for our gardens, there are certain “amenities” we can add to the garden of our lives to encourage the growth of gratitude.
Prayer, journaling, visual reminders, accountability, hanging out with grateful people, re-evaluating our self-talk, and making sleep a priority are only a few examples of how we can feed the soil of our lives, making it a wonderfully fertile place to grow gratitude!
Out of all the amenities we should use in the garden of our life, prayer is by far the most important. The further away from God we get, the darker and heavier our life seems to be. If we find ourselves, complaining, feeling sorry for ourselves or falling into any of the other 7 habits that block gratitude, the first thing we can do is re-evaluate our prayer life.
A rich prayer life nurtures gratitude because it softens us and inclines our heart toward God making us aware of the gifts we have.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Next to a vibrant consistent prayer life, keeping a journal is the best way to nurture the habit of gratitude. We need to set aside a convenient time each day to write down what we are thankful for. It doesn’t have to be a long elegant essay, just some brief notes from the heart. Maybe adding pictures, articles, quotes and scripture as we keep an accounting or our gifts and blessings. The simpler, the better though. I don’t know about you, but if it’s complicated I won’t follow through, and being consistent is another important component of the gratitude journal. It helps if I have a specific time and place to sit, collect my thoughts, pray and write.
Keeping a gratitude journal helps nurture a spirit of thankfulness because, through it, we develop the habit of looking for those people, places, things, and circumstances that we are grateful for.
Use Visual Reminders
Doctor Robert Emmons suggests that forgetfulness and lack of awareness can be obstacles to being grateful. If we aren’t intentional about pursuing gratitude, it is easy to forget or to be unaware of the blessings in our lives.
I love to use visual reminders. They are helpful ways for me to keep my goals in front of me and ever present on my mind. Pictures, quotes, scripture, prayers and specific people, things or circumstances, are all items that we could use as visual reminders. We could display these things in our car, around the house, at the office, or anywhere we spend our time.
Another idea is to use our smart phones to display an image, or schedule a reminder for us to look for gifts and blessings. We could even use music, by downloading a certain song, to might remind us of our blessings.
Visual reminders help us cultivate gratitude in our lives because we are visually reminded, throughout the day, of our gifts and blessings,
We have accountability partners in many areas of our lives, work, prayer, dieting, and exercise, just to name a few. The effectiveness of a trusted friend, coach or family member, acting as an accountability partner, cannot be understated.
Whenever we are trying to develop a new healthy habit and we need support, it’s a good idea to ask someone we trust to come along side us for encouragement, accountability and just to keep things real! Nurturing the habit of gratitude in our lives is no different.
Find someone you trust, someone who already lives with an attitude of gratitude or is looking to grow the virtue in themselves, and meet for coffee or over the phone on a regular basis so that you can share your progress.
Having an accountability partner helps grow the virtue of gratitude in our lives because someone else is walking the road with us, encouraging and challenging along the way.
Surround Yourself with Grateful People
Grateful people seem to know how to find the best in any situation. They are those “silver lining” individuals who bring light to the darkness and lighten our loads. It’s important to have these people in our lives. Not only to be in their company, but to learn from. If it’s true, and I think it is, that we take on the characteristics of those people we spend time with, then we definitely need to spend as much time as we can with people who live thankful lives.
Surrounding ourselves with grateful people will help us nurture thankfulness in our lives because we take on the qualities of those we spend the most time with.
Re-vamp Your Self-talk
Research shows that the “inner conversation” that we all carry on inside our heads is responsible for our moods, which quickly become our attitudes. If our inner conversation, or “self – talk”, is negative, our mood will be negative and dark. We see everything as half empty, and find it difficult to realize our blessings. If we are harsh, condemning, or impatient with ourselves, we will have a hard time finding the positives in our lives. If we change those negative thoughts to positive ones our mood follows! We need to erase the old, negative conversations that we replay over and over in our minds, and replace them with conversations that are respectful, optimistic and appreciative.
Revamping our self-talk helps create an attitude of gratitude because, it keeps us focused on the positive, allowing us to realize all the gifts and blessings in our life.
Make Sleep a Priority
It may seem silly to include sleep as a legitimate means to nurture gratitude, but as I mentioned in my previous post, “7 Enemies of Gratitude”, a lack of sleep leads to sleep deprivation which causes us to see our lives through a distorted lens.
More and more studies are proving the detrimental effects the lack of sleep can have on our lives. Don’t take my word for it, take a few minutes and google “effects of too little sleep”. You’ll see within a few minutes how important sleep is to both your physical and mental health.
Adequate sleep can nurture a spirit of thankfulness because being rested produces a sense of wellbeing, not to mention, good mental and physical health. Both of which open our heart to the good and beautiful things in our life.
I think most of us know that gratitude is the key to a happy healthy life and we earnestly try to maintain an attitude of thankfulness. Sometimes though, life takes over and we may find that we have lost our ability to cultivate that virtue. Certain habits, like weeds in a garden, can creep in, take root, and hinder our efforts. For instance, self-pity, complaining, comparing and lack of sleep, are a just a few of the “weeds” that can creep into the garden of our lives and strangle gratitude.
To nurture this beautiful virtue we need to get rid of the weeds!
Once the weeds are rooted out, we need to be intentional about feeding the soil of our lives, with the right amenities, in order to cultivate the beautiful ground cover of gratitude. Amenities such as, Prayer, journaling, visual reminders, accountability, hanging out with grateful people, re-evaluating our self-talk, and making sleep a priority. Cultivating the virtue of gratitude in our lives opens our hearts and makes us aware of how blessed we are. Gratitude truly is the key to happiness.
“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion into clarity. It turns problems into opportunities, failures into success, the unexpected into perfect timing and mistakes into important events. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” ~Melody Beattie