Here in the United States, we recently celebrated our national Thanksgiving holiday – which, of course, is all about giving thanks and practicing gratitude (at least for the day). And, as a result, I’ve read quite a few articles and received a ton of emails about why people are thankful – and why we should all adopt a regular gratitude practice.
Well, this glass is half-full girl doesn’t need to be sold on the power of gratitude. But I feel that the reasoning behind why we should adopt a regular gratitude practice often misses the mark.
Don’t get me wrong, the benefits of a regular gratitude practice are real. It will help you sleep better, improve your physical and psychological health, make you mentally stronger, decrease aggression, and so on. And all this will increase your happiness.
But there’s something even deeper going on when you practice gratitude. Something that leads to all these benefits we keep talking about.
A Regular Gratitude Practice Will Change Your Mindset
Being grateful on a regular basis will change your mindset into a growth mindset. And that’s what makes it so powerful.
A growth mindset means that you understand and accept that you’re capable of learning something from each experience you have – whether good or bad. And you strive to uncover the lesson so that you can fully understand and incorporate it into your life. It’s a mindset of change and learning.
When you learn to practice being grateful for something regardless of what’s going on in your life, you’re forced into this mindset shift. Because life isn’t always pretty, fun, rewarding, or positive. Sometimes life is hard, depressing, and negative. Sometimes life sucks.
Yet when you practice being grateful, you MUST find something to truly be grateful for. And that’s when this practice becomes magical. Because you’re forced to dig deep and figure out what you’re learning and how you’re growing as a human being. It’s all that’s left for you.
This is when you’ll start reaping the huge health benefits that we keep hearing about. Because your mindset will have shifted.
Common Misconceptions About Being Grateful
When things go your way, it’s easy to have a daily gratitude practice. But it’s not so easy when life gets messy. Which brings me to a common misconception. Practicing gratitude won’t necessarily make your life easier. In fact, it may never make your life easier.
Additionally, practicing gratitude doesn’t mean that you must find a silver-lining. On the contrary, a silver-lining can’t always be found. And you don’t have to enjoy or like what’s going on in your life to be grateful for something.
This is something I learned when I fought breast cancer. I didn’t like what was going on in my life. And I didn’t enjoy much of the process either. But I knew that I needed to be grateful for something every day – no matter what. Because I couldn’t get to a point where I would give up (and believe me, I almost did give up).
This was NOT an easy thing for me to do – especially during those days when I felt wretched.
Yet I found things to be grateful for. I realized that I was grateful to be alive. And for my husband and my kids. I was grateful for the kind people (some of them strangers to me) who brought us dinners because I was too sick and weak to cook.
And, over time, I became grateful for the lessons I learned because of my cancer experience. I learned how much I wanted to live, how much I loved people, and that I wanted to serve people in a more individual and meaningful way.
I learned that, although I was physically miserable, I didn’t have to be miserable in spirit. That the two didn’t need to be interconnected. And I realized that what I was learning from this experience was making me a better person – more patient, less rigid, and much more empathetic towards others.
Although being grateful on a regular basis may not make your life easier, it will make your life better. Easy doesn’t always mean better (the biggest and most profound lessons often come from the most difficult situations).
Is a gratitude practice a cure-all for everything that ails you? Heck no. Will it make your life immediately better? Nope.
Instead, it will slowly shift your mindset into one of growth and learning. Which will help you feel more satisfied with yourself and about your life.
Anyone can cultivate a gratitude habit – including you. All it takes is a willingness to do so and a bit of practice. So, why don’t you give it a try?
Every evening, write down one thing you’re thankful for – without repeats. You must come up with something new every day. This will force you to be specific and start digging deep. I challenge you to do this for the next 60 days. I think you’ll find that this simple practice will shift your mindset – and change how you view yourself and the world for the better.
Until next time…