Why Gratitude Is Important (But Sometimes Hard)
I’ve shared many times before that I think it’s important to start each day with a grateful heart. Grateful for simple things, like a sunny day or warm coffee, to big things like being healthy, a job you love or a trip you get to go on.
It can be easy to brush off this mindset and ritual when you don’t realize just how important and helpful it can be. So of course, in honor of Thanksgiving this week I am going to be a little cliche and talk about why it’s important to be grateful, even when it’s hard.
the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.
So what’s all the fuss about? Here are a few simple benefits to a gratitude practice or being grateful.
It makes us happier! Seriously it does! Even just a few moments of thinking of things to be thankful for can trigger a grateful feeling that will in turn encourage us to look for more things to be thankful for. As we see or experience new things, our gratefulness is again triggered, creating a loop of grateful feelings! All by starting the day with a simple gratitude practice!
It increases your self-esteem and makes more people like you! When you see gratefulness around you and take it at face value, you spend less time worrying about ulterior motives and why people are being nice. You take it for what it is and then it therefore encourages you to do the same for those around you. People like being around nice people (duh) so the more optimistic and kind you are, the deeper friendships you have and more trust you are given.
It makes you healthier! There have been studies that show that having gratitude and a strong gratitude practice can increase the amount of sleep you get, lessen pain, increase movement, and decrease certain health symptoms.
But if gratitude is so great for you then why is it so hard?
I mean how are you supposed to be grateful when your life or your health are falling apart. How are you supposed to be grateful for the people in your life when they can be so hurtful or cruel. How are you supposed to be grateful in a sad world like this?
I get it. For some people, there just doesn’t seem to be a lot to be thankful for. At least not a lot of what people tell us to be thankful for. So what do we do then? Stop focusing on the lack.
Often, many people are seeking things to be grateful for from the physical environment. They want their job, money, people and circumstances to bring them joy. And while those things may make you happy for a moment they will never truly fill you with joy and true gratitude. This is because of whats called ‘hedonic adaptation’, we feel less and less emotion towards things that used to make us happy.
After repeated exposure to the same thing (money, person, circumstance) we experience less emotion and look on to the next thing that will make us feel more again. But soon that new thing will elicit the same response and then we begin our search again.
This is why gratitude is important…but hard. It’s hard to be thankful for things that are no longer new and shiny and perfect. It’s hard to be thankful for the same sweater when someone you follow lives in a mansion and has a private jet. It’s hard to be thankful for your body when you’re told that this bikini model is the ideal and epitome of what happy and healthy looks like. It’s hard to be thankful for your job when you’re stuck in a cubical while you’re friends get to work out of cool coffee shops and at their homes.
But gratitude can change that.
Gratitude takes the thankfulness out of the circumstances and turns it inward. It challenges you to reflect and allows you to thank even the smallest of things. A joyful life is not built around stuff, even if things are nice to have. A joyful life is appreciating the things that really matter. A joyful life is built on choosing to value intrinsic rather than the extrinsic.
Gratitude is hard because day in and day out we are enticed with all the things we could have that promise us joy and a better life. But when you step back and see those as sales pitches and marketing ploys you realize there is joy to be found right now.
Stop wasting your time waiting and focusing on all the things you don’t have. I assure you there is someone out there wishing for the thing you take for granted. There might be a handful of things you wish were different, but choose to focus on the handful of things that you’re lucky to have. Choose to be grateful this week (and weeks ahead) and see just how your perspective shifts!
This season, everyday until the end of the year write 3 things you are thankful for and spend a few minutes appreciating those things. By the end of the year, see if your perspective has changed at all around some of the things you used to focus on or worry about. If so I would love to hear from you!