Most of us have heard the term "an attitude of gratitude". Gratitude is a hot topic not only this month but in popular culture these days. You can find countless books, magazines and articles on everything from the importance of gratitude and its companion, giving, to massive volumes written about their celebrity sibling who resides in the business section of any bookstore: identifying your innate strengths and talents.
I will tell you that I have been a disciplined gratitude practitioner for over fifteen years, not only in my personal and professional life, but also, through the coaching of countless others, of all ages, to do the same. I've had the firsthand experience of watching a few simple practices transform lives, including my own, and the lives of men, women and children, in both the best and worst of times. To date, I've watched people navigate some of life's toughest situations, including illness, job loss, extremely stressful hostile or toxic work environments, passing the bar exam, bad relationships/marriages, and even the death of a loved one with a marked sense of resiliency, enhanced recovery and a positive sense of well-being, meaning and purpose.
The gratitude practices are deceptively simple which leads many would-be practitioners to the following predictable conclusion: I already know this and I already do it. Here's where I'll challenge you. There's a big difference between knowing something and doing it. I know the number of calories I need to ingest and the physical activity that needs to occur in order to lose weight but it doesn't always mean I do it. The same goes for gratitude.
Practicing an Attitude of Gratitude
Be consciously grateful at all times. When you wake up in the morning, before you do anything else, think of 3-5 things for which you are grateful. Be specific. It can be the sound of the birds singing outside, the fact that you are healthy or the sun is shining. You can be grateful that you have all five senses,or that you have the ability to care for your family.
Don't just feel grateful, identify why you are grateful and then tell yourself why this is so.
Continue this practice as you are brushing your teeth, watering the plants, feeding the dog, making lunches for your kids, getting everybody out the door, driving to work.
You're teaching yourself to look for what's right in your life and that's exactly the point.
When it makes sense, practice expressing your gratitude out loud to your child, your spouse, your co-worker, your neighbor. When you are commuting to work or grocery shopping, times when it's easy to go into auto-pilot mode, continue to consciously note the things that make you feel grateful in your environment, from magnificent to mundane. Keep it up all day, wherever you are, even in a public restroom.
Bottom line, look for what's right, wrong and somewhere in between and acknowledge the value each event or person brings you. This doesn't mean you don't acknowledge problems or issues. You simply look for the positive takeaway from the experience, the person, or the situation, information that will allow you to move forward in a more informed, conscious and positive manner.
Follow Rule #1 religiously. Every day. All of the time and particularly when you are in situations of extreme challenge or stress. Many people who have sought my counsel know that I have faced some major challenges in my life and they have watched me relentlessly practice these principles and come out the other side that much more compassionate, stronger, happier and wiser. That's the benefit of gratitude when it is practiced consistently, not just when it is convenient.
Research does show that those practitioners who keep a journal and write down 3-5 (or more) things for which they are grateful and why this is so, experience the enhanced benefits shared throughout this article. The gratitude journal is an excellent practice for anyone who would enjoy this activity. It's a great thing to introduce to a child who is just learning to write. Encourage them to draw pictures to accompany their words, allowing full expression and reward.
As I've said to the children, teens and adults that I have coached over the years, when it comes to the best gratitude practice for each individual, "one size fits one". I recommend that you consider what I've shared and find your own way to incorporate an attitude of gratitude into your day, every day. When you do, you'll notice you begin to feel differently: happier with maximized capacity and a sense of excitement. With your endorphins firing on a consistent basis, you'll feel, like Dr. Seuss declared, in his book, "Oh The Places You'll Go":
You’re off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting, Set get on your way!
Heidi Guest has been a cosmetic executive for over 25 years. Today, she is the On-Air Media Spokesperson for philosophy, a lifestyle brand that focuses on causes benefiting the mental health and well being of women. Married to her college sweetheart for the past 29 years, Heidi is the proud mother of Caitlin, 23, and Nicholas, 17. A San Francisco native, who has lived with her family in the New York metropolitan area for many years, Heidi and her family currently live in Paradise Valley, Arizona. Active in local and national philanthropic efforts that support women, children and families, Heidi's greatest passion is helping others live into their full potential both personally and professionally.
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