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 practicing 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.
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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.
How Gratitude Rewires Your Brain
Believe it or not, changing your mindset through a regular gratitude practice is a BIG DEAL. In fact, regularly practicing gratitude rewires your brain to think more positively and be more mentally happy.
That’s why there are such huge mental health benefits to it. Not only will you be happier, but you’ll be on the lookout for things that will make you happier (even when things aren’t going so well).
[Recommended Reading: How to Be More Self-Confident at Work By Changing Your Mindset].
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 some common misconceptions about gratitude.
Practicing gratitude won’t necessarily make your life easier.
Gratitude isn’t a cure-all to life’s woes. It will still be messy and sometimes feel hard. But it will help you get through the hard times.
Practicing gratitude isn’t about finding a silver-lining.
Here’s the thing: a silver-lining can’t always be found. And practicing gratitude doesn’t require you to find one. But you don’t have to enjoy or like what’s going on in your life to be grateful for something. Because there’s always something you can be grateful for (even if something little).
An Example of How to Be Grateful (Even During the Toughest of Times)
When I had 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 yet I found things to be grateful for. Things such as:
- still being alive;
- my husband getting me something to drink;
- the laughter of my boys;
- having enough energy for a morning shower (and how good that felt).
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 I didn’t have to be miserable in spirit even when I felt my worst. 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.
Summing Up Gratitude
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 (in fact, 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.
But it will shift your mindset into one of growth and learning, which will eventually help you feel more satisfied with yourself and your life.
Anyone can cultivate a gratitude habit – including you. All it takes is a willingness to do so and a bit of practice.
Take the Plunge
Ready to give gratitude a try?
Every evening, write down at least 3 things that you’re thankful for that day. Be sure not to be too general or repeat yourself (for this to work, you need to 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. This simple practice will shift your mindset for the better.
Until next time…
[Recommended Reading: is perfectionism getting the best of you this holiday season? Read about how to ditch holiday perfectionism in Confessions of a Holiday Perfectionist.]
P.S. Gratitude is an act of self-care and also helps you to ditch stress and anxiety. To take your self-care even further, download your free Essential Self-Care Toolkit for guilt-free + simple self-care that works!