Monday, October 8, 2012

Building the Thankfulness Muscle

We seem to spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about what we don't have in our lives, with what's missing, with what ticked us off, with what's going wrong.  Why does it often prove so difficult to consider what we do have, what is right in our world, to think about what we are thankful and grateful for?  Like any skill in life, it turns out that being thankful takes... practice! As it happens, our thankfulness muscles may simply be a little underused and need a bit of a tune-up!

Let's face it, we probably would have little difficulty in creating a complaint list!  In fact, many of us might ask for a second piece of paper in doing so!  Would we find the creation of a gratitude list as easy? Likely not. We know from research that there are many benefits to becoming more proficient at being grateful:
  • writing in a gratitude journal for 15 minutes each evening helps you to worry less at bedtime and sleep longer and better afterward
  • increases overall sense of life satisfaction and happiness
  • increases your sense of achievement and success
  • tends to increase loving and kind gestures
  • improves mental alertness
  • staves off certain psychological disorders
  • improves overall physical health and well-being
It seems that thankfulness has a lot to commend it.  Rather than spending time dissecting why we don't seem predisposed to 'do' it more (or beating ourselves up about it!)... let's just jump to the recognition that displaying a little more thankfulness and gratitude in our lives would be a good thing!  Like any muscle that has been left too long unused though, our Thankfulness muscles have likely atrophied over time.  We many need to strengthen them a little before truly seeing and experiencing the full benefit.

Consider taking two minutes at the end of each day to write down three things you are grateful for that day.  That's it... just three!  

This may prove a little more daunting at first than it sounds.  It is not unusual to struggle to come up with some things we are grateful for that rise above... I'm thankful for air conditioning or... I'm thankful that the drive-through got my order right!  That's okay... baby steps!  You wouldn't want to hop up off of a lifetime on the couch and run a marathon without some preparation either!  We're just developing your thankfulness muscles here.  Over time you will gradually see a shift in the quality, nature and, perhaps, even the volume of things you are grateful for each day.

As with anything, you tend to get what you focus on.  Setting a mindset to begin to recognise and identify things to be grateful for helps you to recognise them when they come along.  You'll likely find that there were plenty of things to be grateful for all along... you just weren't disposed to notice them. Like anything, seeing the good (instead of the bad) is largely a conditioned habit.  It just takes focus. With a little two minute mental exercise each day, you can strengthen your thankfulness muscle and start reaping the positive benefits, an insight that I am truly thankful for!

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