So often we count what is missing from our lives, focusing on what is not there.
In doing this, we create a form of "negative hallucination," a state of mind that blinds us to so much of what is actually there -- a really self-defeating way to pass our days.
By dwelling on what we lack we create feelings of deprivation and unhappiness that can eclipse the spirit and block our ability to experience the simple joy of being alive.
If we really do want to live a more fulfilled and joyful life then cultivating a sense of gratitude is a key ingredient. Gratitude for all that we have, for all that is there, brings with it a deeper appreciation of life itself.
Research has shown (1) that gratitude is an essential element in our ability to experience genuine happiness. Not only that, but expressing gratitude can actually have a physical affect on the brain, changing it in positive ways.
Gratefulness and life satisfaction just seem to go hand in hand (2).
Here are six habits that grateful people cultivate. They are the keys to increased joy and contentment.
1. Grateful people do not expect life to give them every single thing they desire.
They live with the understanding that no one can have everything they want, when they want it, and that this is okay. They are appreciative of all they have, and are less likely to envy what others have.
2. Grateful people take nothing for granted.
They do their best to see the positive outcome in situations and experiences and are not afraid to work towards those outcomes. They do not take the good things in their lives for granted.
3. Grateful people work with things as they are.
They do not insist that conditions be exactly right before they can be happy. Appreciative of all they have, they accept life's shortcomings, while working on their own, and welcome joy and happiness into their lives unconditionally.
4. Grateful people realize that they cannot have the sunshine without also having the rain.
They understand that no one can live in a perpetual state of happiness, accepting that difficult times will sometimes come. They have learned to respect and be grateful for life in all its diversity.
5. Grateful people cultivate flexible thinking habits.
They have learned to adapt to life circumstances and can adjust their thinking to the situation. Gratitude and rigid thinking make a poor fit, and so they make allowances for other people's perceptions and opinions.
6. Grateful people do not define themselves by their regrets.
They appreciate their abilities while working to improve them, accepting responsibility for their actions while working towards their positive future.
Cultivate these habits of gratitude and you really will reap some wonderful benefits.
What are you waiting for? Why not start right now!
"When I started counting my blessings, my whole life turned around."
-- Willie Nelson
(1) Emmons, R. A. (2007). THANKS! How the New Science of Gratitude Can Make You Happier. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company.
(2) Watkins, P. C., Grimm, D. L., & Kolts, R. (2004). Counting your blessings: Positive memories among grateful persons. Current Psychology: Developmental, Learning, Personality, Social, 23, 52-67.
Peter Field is a UK registered psychotherapist and London and Birmingham hypnotherapist. He is the author of the best-selling book on hypnotherapy, 'The Chi of Change'. His hypnotherapy Birmingham and London clinics provide services throughout the UK. Peter's most recent book is 'How To Be Gay and Happy.'