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Beth was a negative nelly who struggled to find anything good about her life. As a result, she was chronically unhappy. She didn’t make as much money as her co-workers because her boss had it in for her.
Her marriage wasn’t fulfilling because her husband wasn’t romantic enough. Her book wasn’t published because her agent wasn’t working hard enough.
Finally, after hearing yet another rant about everything that was wrong in her life, Beth’s friend suggested the common denominator. “Perhaps the problem isn’t everyone else. Perhaps the problem is you. Do you even realize how often you complain?” her friend asked.
Deeply offended, Beth began logging how often she complained. She was surprised to find herself with a dozen complaints by midmorning and at the end of the day, she discovered she’d complained just over 30 times.
Beth Is Not Alone
Most people complain an average of 30 times a day. This constant stream of fault-finding rewires your brain for negativity, opens you up to potential health problems, damages your career, and infects your relationships.
With so much at risk, what’s the alternative? How can you break the cycle of negativity and complaining? Can you really train yourself to not only look for the positive but to focus on it as well?
The answer can be found in a simple yet difficult word: gratitude. Gratitude is simply the “quality of being thankful” (Oxford dictionary).
But it’s a hard quality to master when it seems the world around you is neither fair nor good. Yet those who are willing to embrace gratitude often discover these surprising gifts that come with it…
Gift #1: Gratitude Lowers Stress
Picture this: you’re in the car on the way to an important appointment. You’re running late and you get behind a slow driver. Traffic prevents you from switching lanes. You’re stuck where you are. What’s your default response?
If you’re like most people, the answer probably involves some complaining, negativity, and general unhappiness. After all, you can’t change your circumstances right now.
But what if you challenged yourself to change your outlook?
Instead of fretting over the appointment, you can take action. Take sixty seconds to focus on something you’re profoundly grateful for such as your child’s laughter or the delivery of pink carnations from your sister yesterday. Savor the happiness of that moment and hold onto that, rather than your resentment of the other driver.
Gift #2: Thankfulness Challenges Adversity
The job you wanted wasn’t offered to you. The deal you needed didn’t come through. The company went bankrupt and you’re left holding the bag.
Everyone encounters adversity at some point. Yet some people are resilient. No matter what they face, they always seem to bounce back and turn obstacles into opportunities to better themselves.
What’s the secret? It’s simple—grateful people are focused on what’s going right, on what resources they already have, and how they can use these blessings to improve their fortunes. This enables them to cope with minor setbacks and crushing defeats without losing their will to carry on.
Gift #3: Gratitude Strengthens Relationships
It’s hard to make yourself feel love or act kindly toward someone when you’re always cataloging their faults. Maybe you have legitimate points. Perhaps your relationship issues need to be confronted.
But do you honestly believe you’re going to strengthen your relationship by telling the other person exactly what they’re doing wrong?
Look beyond the surface. Perhaps your spouse is forgetful but what else are they? Are they an amazing parent? A kick-ass teacher? An incredible support system to you as you’re building your side hustle?
Grateful people aren’t focused on what the other person is doing wrong. They’re looking at how much joy and contentment their loved one brings to them and they’re eager to return that joy.
Gift #4: Thankfulness Encourages Self-Love
Making strides toward self-love is difficult if you’re always listing your flaws and failures. If you’re like most people, you probably have a mental list of reasons why you’re unworthy, unlovable, and undeserving of good things. But thankfulness allows you to step back and see positive things about yourself.
Sarah always hated her feet. Once when she was in sixth grade, she complained they were too big to her father. She wanted small, dainty feet like all of her friends. Her father listened then said, “Sweet pea, those feet will take you anywhere you want to go.”
His words changed her perspective and made her realize how blessed she was to have two working feet when many people don’t. Even years later, Sarah would celebrate her feet by getting pedicures, moisturizing her heels, and finding cute shoes.
Gift #5: Gratitude Boosts Creativity
When you’re happy and buoyant, it’s easier to sit down and write that next chapter, paint that picture, or knit that sweater. The time flies by and you anticipate what you’ll do with the finished project.
If you focus on gratitude and the amazing blessings you already have in your life, it’s much easier to create. You can give your projects your full focus and tackle problems you encounter with ease and joy.
Gift #6: Thankfulness Reduces Materialism
Do you ever find yourself opening a stuffed closet and wondering how you came to own so much stuff? Maybe parts of your home are even inaccessible due to the extra clothing, blankets, or spare parts you keep around.
An easily forgotten gift from gratitude is that it reduces materialism. After all, if you’re grateful for that warm winter coat that flatters your figure, why on earth would you keep three other ones that don’t fit?
Gift #7: Gratitude Promotes Selfless Giving
There’s a story in the Bible that illustrates the joy of giving. During a temple (church) service, some attendees begin donating vast amounts of money in an effort to impress others. Then a widow shyly comes forward and shares the equivalent of a few cents.
Yet the widow is the one who’s praised in the story. It’s not that she gave so much. She gave far less than anyone else. But what she shared was everything she had!
When you regularly meditate on all your blessings and consider how much you’ve been given, it’s easier to share the abundance. You may not have everything you want today but chances are, you have more than you need in at least one area of your life. Will you be generous with your abundance?
Gift #8: Thankfulness Improves Your Health
Giving thanks is a wonderful way to improve your health. In fact, people who regularly take time to practice gratitude have cortisol (the stress hormone) levels that are up to 20% lower than the normal population (UC Davis Health).
But the benefits don’t stop there. Gratitude also lowers your blood pressure, improves your sleep, and decreases chronic pain.
Some studies have even shown that a regular gratitude practice can improve your overall immune function, making you less likely to get sick.
Gratitude Is A Habit (Not Just A Feeling!)
Embracing a grateful spirit doesn’t mean you’ll never have another bad day. But it does mean that you’ll approach these days differently. Instead of cataloging everything that’s going wrong, you’ll square your shoulders and look for the silver lining. Because you know if you search hard enough, you will find it. That’s the power of gratitude!
Loving Life — The Reboot!