It is that time of year when giving thanks is top of mind. The holiday season, and Thanksgiving in particular, causes us to think about all of the special things in our lives and express gratitude for them. This is a favorite time of year for many, in large part because we are surrounded by loved ones and visibly reminded of all that we have to be grateful for.
If you're like me, you wish this feeling could last all year long. Just imagine feeling proud, thankful, and joyful on an ongoing basis, not only during the holiday season.
A major step in that direction is developing an "Attitude of Gratitude," according to New York Times best-selling author Lewis Howes. Howes writes extensively about cultivating a grateful mindset in his highly-inspirational new book, The School of Greatness. As Howes simply says, "Life is better if you develop an attitude of gratitude."
But what exactly does that mean and how do we do it?
An attitude of gratitude means making it a habit to express thankfulness and appreciation in all parts of your life, on a regular basis, for both the big and small things alike. As Howes puts it, "If you concentrate on what you have, you'll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don't have, you'll never have enough."
Here is a menu of tactics (just pick a few!) he endorses to help develop this mindset:
- Wake up every day and express to yourself what you are grateful for
- Tell whoever you are with at the end of the day the 3 things you are most grateful for
- Tell whoever you are with right now (significant other, friend, family member, etc.) the 3 things that you are most grateful for in this moment
- Start a gratitude journal - Express gratitude in this journal every night by noting the things that you are grateful for, proud of, and excited about
- Acknowledge yourself for what you have done and accomplished in the last day/week/month/year. Instead of comparing yourself to others, give yourself credit for the big and small things you have been doing!
- Acknowledge other people and thank them for inspiring/helping/supporting you - oftentimes people wait their whole lives to be acknowledged (and yet it happens far too infrequently)!
If the gratitude process is hard to get started, begin by asking yourself, "What could I be grateful for?", and see if the ideas start to flow. This is a mindset habit that is recommended by Tony Robbins in his book, Awaken the Giant Within.
Every day won't be perfect, but focusing on what we are grateful for tends to wash away feelings of anger and negativity.
And in addition to improving mood, recent studies show that feeling and expressing gratitude leads to better physical health as well. Paul Mills, a Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, conducted studies that looked at the role of gratitude on heart health.
Among other things, he found that participants who kept a journal most days of the week, writing about 2-3 things they were grateful for (everything from appreciating their children to travel and good food), had reduced levels of inflammation and improved heart rhythm compared to people who did not write in a journal. And the journal-keepers also showed a decreased risk of heart disease after only 2 months of this new routine!
So try adopting some of the above tactics, even just one or two, in order to develop an overall grateful mindset. It takes a bit of work, but having an attitude of gratitude is one of the most impactful habits for a fulfilling and healthy life.
Here's to Thanksgiving all year round!