We've had a washout weekend. And whilst the rain scuppered our plans for some outdoor fun with friends, it turned out to be a scrumptious relaxing, reflective couple of days. Perhaps just what we needed before taking another step towards normality. Life is about to get much busier. And it got me thinking...
Whilst the lockdown has been unquestionably hard on everyone, I've navigated through it by learning, or realising, to appreciate the special time we've had together as our little unit. Somewhat living the simple, slower life and embracing every moment. Because it's so much easier to see the beauty of life when it's stripped right back to your own doorstep. I felt overwhelmed with gratitude for everything we've been able to do, see and enjoy.
I'm not saying we've had it easy. But the attitude of gratitude has helped us get through the difficult times, the losses and the isolation. And we're coming out of it with bigger hearts and even bigger smiles for the appreciation of what we do have.
Yes, we're desperate to give our precious friends and family the biggest squeeze since what feels like forever. To get back to doing more of what we used to do. And I'm buzzing to be stepping into this next chapter with more gratitude than ever before. But I know gratitude doesn't come easy. Especially during the most challenging and saddest of times. But oh boy, when you begin to understand how powerful practicing gratitude can be, you'll want to make sure going about your day gratuitously becomes second nature.
So, I wanted to take a moment of your time to help set you up for a joyful journey as we come out of the next stage of lockdown. So we don't forget the little things we've come to love and are ready to face the road ahead with grateful hearts, no matter what. So here's your guide to leading a life that's full of gratitude...
What is gratitude?
This is important to understand first. When asked, most people will reply with "it's simply about saying thank you." This is just the beginning, and perhaps the easiest of all steps to living gratuitously. Gratitude is an attitude you choose to have [yes, you can choose this for yourself!]. It's about being appreciative of everything in your life; the people, the services you use, the things you have access to, the things you can do, and last but not least, it's about YOU too.
But it doesn't stop there. It's what you do with your appreciation that brings gratitude to life, and to others too. The actions you take, the things you say, and what you do in your own space.
Some unknown benefits
Of course, spreading kindness and happiness to yourself and others are the first to come to mind. But there are so many underlying pluses you might not be aware of. So here are just a few to get you going...
1. Improves your physical and psychological health
Studies have concluded a clear link between gratitude and well-being. Grateful people report fewer aches and pains, and even suffer less illness. Your self-appreciation means you're more likely take better care of you physical health through exercise. Gratitude reduces and even eradicates negative emotions, like anger, resentment, frustration and regret. Your quality of sleep can even improve too! And we all know how important that is for your all-round health.
So in short, a grateful attitude is proven effectively increases happiness, reduce depression and have a positive impact on your overall health.
2. Increases your mental strength
Gratitude is a major contributor to resilience. Not only does it reduce your stress levels, it helps you to manage and overcome trauma. Recognising everything you have to be grateful for and not allowing yourself to be consumed by what you don't have, or no longer have. This is not to override grief, but to help you through it. Easier said than done of course but even just having this knowledge for now will put you in a better place to face start facing whatever life throws at you.
3. Improves your self-esteem
I've recently visited the topic of confidence and learning to appreciate yourself and be grateful for you is key to being a happier you. And boosting your self-esteem is a big enabler for you to put your best self forward in all that you do. You'll be more energetic and more likely to achieve important goals. It reduces the mindset of comparison and re-channels you to focus inwardly on your strengths. So be grateful for who you are and you will be the best you are meant to be.
4. Opens the door to more relationships
Showing your appreciation of others not only strengthens your current relationships but it will also open up opportunities for new relationships. Sending out positivity and gratitude towards others attracts positivity and rewards you in return with healthy connections with others. And healthy relationships is key here. A good heart will enjoy fruitful, lasting relationships.
How to live gratuitously
To ignite a positive and appreciative attitude, you must first remove some of the blockers to living gratuitously. Here are some behaviours to pack away...
- Don't complain about everything and anything
- Put to bed any self-pity
- Don't compare your life to others
- Don't be judgmental of other people and their decisions
- Don't 'give' with the expectation of getting something in return
- Don't be self-righteous about your sacrifices
- Stop waiting for something good to come your way
Instead, here's how to be more grateful in life...
- Write down at least one thing each day that you appreciate in your life
- Remember to say 'thank you', even for the smallest of things
- Laugh! Smile! Cry! Don't be afraid to express yourself
- Help a stranger by holding a door open, reaching for something on the top shelf or taking a minute to guide them into a tricky parking space, for example
- Keep in the back of your mind you never know what someone else is dealing with
- Look for the positives even when a situation seems hopeless. There are always options and opportunities for change
- Write a letter to a dear friend. A simple, tangible act which can make the world of difference to someone's day
- Look at yourself in the mirror and repeat in your mind the things you like about yourself. If this is hard, write down the things you don't like and pop them away to come back to later. Appreciating you can take time
- Remember to take care of you - eat well, look after yourself, exercise and take time for you when you need it
- Appreciate the mystery and unknowns of life. Appreciate the challenges that come your way as lessons to help you be a stronger person
I realise there's a lot of information here. See this is a journey and take a few points to try each day. Before you know it you'll be naturally letting your positive, appreciative attitude guide you in all that you do. And when you're truly grateful for the life you have, your gratitude river will never run dry.
Love and happiness