The Power of Gratitude in Difficult Times

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Gratitude is one of the primary keys to living a happy and prosperous life. When you show gratitude for what you have, you are content with your life and positive about all that it has to offer.

Studies have shown that grateful people are more resilient and resistant to stress. When you can find the ability to be thankful for the things you have in your life, you find yourself able to move through challenges and difficulties in your lifetime and time again. Gratitude helps us see our strength, open our hearts, and experience the fullness in our lives.

The good news is, you don’t have to go through a crisis in order to find gratitude. Gratitude is something that we have endless opportunities to feel each day.

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Developing the Habit of Gratitude

Cultivating gratitude can be a direct way to enhance other emotions in your life, like love, compassion, humility, comfort, passion, and confidence. The challenge becomes not getting caught in the negativity bias of our brain. And with practice, gratitude can be a choice, an intentional way of viewing the world. This is not to say that you should discount or make light of difficulties or painful experiences in your life, but you should choose not to let yourself become overwhelmed in these times, and find a way to see beyond them. You can look with gratitude at what you learn about others and yourself when you’re moving through hardships.

With practice, you can develop new patterns of thinking and new ways to experience your life. Just like with a new diet or exercise, engaging in a new behavior for one hour, one day, or one week, will not create a long-term change, but regular practice can create a change that is sustainable. It can quickly become a habit. Something that you do automatically. No matter what your situation, there is always an opportunity for gratitude. Even the most frustrating experiences can offer you a chance to practice gratitude, but can also allow you to observe it and be influenced by its presence.

Any new behavior or routine will take time to develop into a new habit. The first time you drive a car, everything is new and requires your full attention. When you begin a new fitness plan, it takes some effort and commitment. Over time, the newness becomes something that you just do. The process is seldom simple and often requires some support or encouragement. Developing a habit of gratitude will require some attention and effort on your part. While shifting gratitude into a consistent practice does take effort, it is a worthwhile investment of your energy.

Benefits of a Gratitude Habit

Research has shown that in addition to increasing your awareness of the abundance already present in your life, practicing gratitude gives you a wide range of benefits including:

  • Improved ability to manage daily stress;
  • Increased optimism about the future;
  • A heightened sense of community;
  • Increased resiliency to traumatic events;
  • A heightened sense of emotional well-being;
  • Increased physical activity;
  • Improved sleep;
  • Improved physical health;
  • Reduction in feelings of depression;
  • Reduction in feelings of anxiety;
  • Positive impact on both cardiovascular and immune functions.

It’s critical to remember that habits take time to develop. There may be days where you forget about gratitude altogether. That’s alright. You can pick up the practice again the following day. Over time, the practice of gratitude will become more automatic. Just like learning anything new, you have to give yourself patience and time to develop gratitude habits. With continued practice, you will notice the rewards in your own life unfold.

4 Easy Ways to Add More Gratitude to Your Life

1. Practice Giving

As much as we live in a world where we are conditioned to give thanks, often without awareness, we also live in an age of entitlement, where more and more, people are finding themselves disappointed because they are not receiving what they believe they deserve. Believing that the world owes you anything is a false premise and will only lead you to experience disappointment, strains in your relationships, and further resentment and frustration.

Entitlement is one of the most significant obstacles to gratitude as this belief of deserving creates a wall that blocks gratitude.

So, the question becomes how can you shift from an attitude of entitlement to one of gratitude. You can start by adjusting your own attitude and model a grateful attitude in your home. You can also teach your children about gratitude and giving rather than about deserving and owing.

The key to teaching gratitude is to engage in activities and interactions that are focused on sharing, giving, and connecting rather than doing something in order to get something back.

2. Write With Gratitude

As you look for ways to foster gratitude in your life, you can look to the simple act of writing thank-you notes. Often, when people talk about writing thank you notes, they are taken back to when they were required to write obligatory thank you notes for graduations, birthdays, weddings. In many of these situations, gifts are purchased are out of a social obligation, and the thank you notes are also written from a place of social responsibility.

While this may not be representative of sincere gratitude, it is a positive step in moving toward developing gratitude habits, because it is a way to acknowledge gifts received.

With that, you can go a step further and move past obligatory gratitude and into Reflective Gratitude. Reflective Gratitude happens when you are able to step back from a situation, recall the event, and re-experience the emotions that occurred during that moment or span of time. Often, we don’t realize the benefit that we’re receiving from someone until after we have had time to reflect.

Thank you notes have a positive effect on those who receive them. Taking the time to reflect on the relationships you have developed, and the gifts that those relationships offer you can move you from a place of resentment or victimization into feeling appreciative of the gifts that you have received. It can also provide you with the opportunity to reflect on how you have affected those around you.

Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

3. Create Gratitude Reminders

When you are trying to form a new habit, having visual reminders around your home or workspace can help you stay on track with your goals.

You can create reminders that will prompt you throughout the day to think about gratitude, or merely to pause and reflect.

Here are some ways you can create your gratitude reminders:

  1. Carry a small stone in your pocket. When you notice the rock, pause for a moment, and reflect on gratitude.
  2. Put a note on your wall, refrigerator, or bathroom mirror that says, “I am grateful.”
  3. Set an alarm on your phone to go off one or more times a day as a cue to pause and reflect on gratitude.
  4. Schedule a five-minute “gratitude break” in your office calendar two or three times each week.
  5. Have a “gratitude partner,” someone with whom you check in daily to help identify aspects of gratitude in the day.

4. Include Family & Others

You don’t need to practice gratitude alone. Gratitude is, after all, about relationships and exchange. You can create an attitude of gratitude within your home as a family activity.

Keep a gratitude list for your family. Place a whiteboard or sheet of paper on the refrigerator or some other easy-to-find location and have everyone in the family add to it daily. Things on the list can be big or small; it doesn’t matter. Choose one day a week to share the list together at a shared meal. Create a new list each week.

Summary: Developing a Habit of Gratitude in Difficult Times

Start practicing an attitude of gratitude, making it an integral part of your every day.

Gratitude, like any skill, can be learned and you can develop habits of gratitude. With practice, gratitude can become a choice. You can learn how to bring gratitude into your life and improve your relationships.

The benefits of a gratitude habit include:

  • Improved ability to manage daily stress
  • Increased optimism about the future
  • A heightened sense of community
  • Increased resiliency to traumatic events
  • A heightened sense of emotional well-being
  • Increased physical activity
  • Improved sleep
  • Improved physical health
  • Reduction in feelings of depression
  • Reduction in feelings of anxiety
  • Positive impact on both cardiovascular and immune functions

Gratitude has the power to dramatically transform your life dramatically and is something that can be quickly learned. As you begin to notice the good that is surrounding your life and start to show gratitude for everything you have, you will begin to become happier and more content with your life. Gratitude will allow you to become more hopeful for the future and excited to see what life has in store for you.

Track this new habit:

Check off this habit in your Healthy Habits Tracker (download yours for free here).

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Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson, NBC-HWC, CHN, LMC, CGP

Danielle Atcheson is on a mission to inspire healthier living using the power of micro-habits.

She’s a popular speaker, a board-certified health & wellness coach, and founder of One Degree Health.

As a former Fortune 500 executive, she knows firsthand how a busy schedule can interfere with prioritizing our health.

Danielle started One Degree Health to share her Micro-Habit Mindset and wellness formula with other busy professionals through engaging workshops, online coaching & nutrition programs, and private coaching.

Founder & Chief Wellness Officer, One Degree Health; Functional Nutritionist, Lifestyle Medicine Specialist, Board-Certified Health & Wellness Coach, Certified Gluten-Free Practitioner, Plant-Based Nutrition certified from Cornell University.

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