Being thankful for the small things can lead to big things

How using the small act of daily gratitude can lead to a happier life.

Actively being thankful, or practicing gratitude, each day used to seem a bit silly to me. Until I tried it. Earlier this year I hit a rough patch. There wasn’t anything going wrong in my life, it was more a feeling of being lost with no rudder to guide me. 

I was uninspired, often anxious, and my life didn’t seem as exciting/fulfilling/successful as everyone else’s, especially on social media. I found myself starting to focus heavily on these negative feelings that made them multiply like a fungus trying to take over my life. 

I sought ways to calm my mind and one of the things that kept popping up in my research was gratitude; the daily act of being thankful for little things and writing it down. In the past, I had seen people do #gratitude projects on social media and I judged it quickly as “not for me,” but as an experiment, I quietly began to write down three things for which I was grateful every evening. 

Instead of feeling silly, I discovered it is for me after all. In fact, combining gratitude with regular meditation and exercise (and a little bit of mindfulness) something shifted in my brain and things became rosier. The fungus gave way to a lush garden of contentment as the positive vibes overtook the negative ones. 

Lisa Burling owns a busy public relations company and is a mum of two young boys. Life has thrown her a good handful of curveballs in recent years, and she found that her emotional garden was getting a little cramped with bad vibes. She observed a few people in her inner circle for reaping the benefits of being thankful for what they have rather than lamenting what they don’t.
 
“I’m surrounded by a few people who practice daily gratitude and I noticed how it was positively impacting their lives. I started very simply for myself – I bought a gratitude diary and wrote three things I was grateful for each day before I went to bed. This quick moment of reflection on life’s gifts - often the small, inconsequential things – meant I went to bed with a grateful heart,” tells Lisa.

“I started during one of the lowest points in my life and it definitely expedited my positive attitude returning, plus made me see life wasn’t really that bad after all. In fact, it was very good!”
a woman walking through a forest

Lisa now feels she looks at life through a different lens, as though the act of practicing gratitude has given her a “glass half full” view of the world.  Lisa’s gratitude has helped her to feel happier and more content. 

Happiness is often not something that we simply have it is much like a muscle or a skill, believes Dr. Tim Sharp, an Australian Psychologist and leader in the field of Positive Psychology, also known as Dr. Happy.

“Most of us understand that achieving ‘success’ and ‘competence’ in any area usually requires time and practice and effort (in the gym or in the studio or in the kitchen). So why would happiness be any different?” he wrote recently.

“What if you were to think of happiness in the same way – as a skill that requires practice and diligence and ‘working out’? Because in my humble opinion, that’s the best way to think about it!

“There’s no doubt that just as in those other areas already mentioned, ‘natural ability’ will play some role; but there’s also no doubt that with effort and devotion happiness can be created and enhanced.”
The benefit of using gratitude to help achieve greater happiness is not simply a temporary emotional shift but can be a long-term change in the way you think.  

“Studies have shown even by just thinking the question ‘what am I grateful for?’ it affects the neural pathways in our brain. By practicing gratitude we impact those parts of the brain that release our ‘happy juices’- dopamine and serotonin, and we actually build stronger connections between pathways in our brain that help us to feel happier, to learn better and to regulate our eating, sleeping, and other bodily functions,” tells psychologist Dr. Sasha Lynn.

Gratitude is a very simple and accessible part of positive psychology, by flipping our focus from the negative side of the coin to the positive and and focusing and nurturing those aspects of yourself and your life. Not only can you enhance happiness and contentment, but also your resilience.

“Positive psychology is all about looking at what works, and enhancing our strengths, helping us to flourish. We acknowledge that sometimes not so great stuff happens, but we can bounce back better, and lead more fulfilling lives if we can focus on what helps us lead the best life we can for us, and to also share that meaning and fulfillment with others!” Dr. Lynn says.

For our house, after my own success, I’ve now introduced my kids to the benefits of being thankful. We’ve found little ways to introduce the concept into our home, and we’re all sharing the little moments of joy that come from expressing gratitude. We may be thankful for things such as enjoying a meal together, a comment someone shared with us in the day, or even a personal win from the day. 

Everyone experiences the not-so-sunny bits of life, but they won’t seem so bad if you can also see the rainbows.

Make little moments matter

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