Is it possible to stay continually grateful? Or is it inevitable that thoughts of lack, discontent, and dissatisfaction will always seep back into life? I certainly struggle with this at times. I feel that I’m often seeking something. It seems like every moment of sheer gratitude is followed by a new yearning, desire, and unfulfilled purpose that I should be chasing. When it comes down to it, I’m able to handle the major set-backs in life more effectively than the minor inconveniences.Though, it doesn’t have to be this way. Through gaining self-awareness of how gratitude comes and goes in my life, I’m able to focus my attention more closely on the experience and influence of gratitude. The gratitude cycle in my life seems to rotate along the following pattern:
1) I experience uplifting gratitude from a big opportunity or blessing 2) minor set-backs or frustrations appear, and 3) somehow ultimately drown out the proud achievement. The little things steal my focus away from gratitude, only until a new “achievement” is gained.
“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” – Brian Tracy
It is easy to neglect the small successes and everyday blessings we have. How does gratitude come in and out of your life? What is your gratitude cycle? Here are a few suggestions that can help you keep an attitude of gratitude, and work through that vicious cycle of gratitude that may be drowning out your joy.
Write down what you’re grateful for everyday.
This may seem cliché, but it truly has impact. One of the best ways to imprint the positive things in life into your mind is by concretely capturing them in words. Start your day off by making a list of what you’re grateful for. This can be done by starting a gratitude journal. Think about all the areas where things are going well. Do you have friends and family? How about safety and security with a roof over your head? Do you have your health and ability for healing? What about wisdom and patience from life experience? The list could go on and on. So please don’t stop there. Point being, be grateful for what you have and take the focus off what you don’t have. Don’t let the little things steal your focus from joy and gratitude.
Develop an attitude of appreciation and compassion.
This can be a very difficult thing to do, particularly if things aren’t going well and your feeling agitated, but it’s one of the most important ways to improve your attitude and life perspective. Anytime I see someone who is in a more difficult situation than me, I immediately try to count my blessings. I immediately appreciate what I have. I realize that it could be me with my car broke down on the side of the road, or it could be me who is unable to use my legs, or who is living on the street holding a sign. This is a mental and emotional habit that can really help signal a reminder to focus on the good things in life. Start appreciating what you have and forget petty grievances and minor set-backs that seem to linger in your thoughts. Cultivate the emotion of compassion and wish others well in all they do. Reach out to others through volunteer work and develop some purpose. Get yourself out of your discouraged frame of mind. Cultivate empathy for other people, and learn to connect more fully in relationships. This will help you step outside of your own emotions and experience the world from another person’s position. Also, reach out and spend time with people who help to uplift your emotions. Empathy can be translated to positive emotions as well. Spend time with people who boost your mood. Share in the positive blessings of others. If you can develop the discipline to be happy for someone else, you can start to translate this into your own life.
Work toward staying present and mindful.
This is another task that is easier said than done, but with continued practice, you will start to notice the difference. I tend to neglect this principle in my day to day life, because I’m planning ahead to accomplish a new goal, organizing my schedule, or developing a long-term project. When it comes down to it, staying focused on the present is a very powerful force that can eliminate a significant amount of stress, particularly when the going gets tough.
“Whatever the present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it.” — Eckhart Tolle
When you aren’t constantly revisiting the past or engrossed in the future, there is a real ability to be self-aware and better manage emotional states. Being peacefully present also eliminates the yearning and anxiety that comes when we look to the future. We cease to look for everything we want and don’t have, and can realize we have everything we need. Being present can involve some acceptance of life, but if we are able to do this, it can help to manage feelings of regret or ruminating about “if only I did this or that…”, all of which prevent a focus on the good things we have now. Being present takes quiet contemplation and focus, which can be experienced through the practice of meditation.
Start practicing meditation.
Meditation is a primary practice to bring all these ideas together. It’s a chance to sit serenely and focus on peaceful thoughts and feelings. Find a quite place, with healthy surroundings, to sit and relax your mind. Meditation is a powerful tool for both managing life’s problems and cultivating a successful mind. Meditation is essentially a quite state of reflection and can help you learn to control your thoughts in order to either “let go” of a difficult situation, or to cultivate positive thoughts and gratitude through focusing on emotional states of thanks, love, compassion, and peace. There are many ways to meditate. I find it helpful to work toward mindfulness by starting to focus on my breath going in and out, recognizing the sounds around me, and being aware of the sensations throughout my body. This helps maintain a present state of mind. To take it a step further, you can begin to recite positive thoughts in your mind through the use of mantras or affirmations. Even further you can begin to visualize your ideal circumstances, and slowly bring all the techniques together. We need time for quiet contemplation and reflection to work toward a happy and healthy life. Begin practicing mindfulness and fill your thoughts with what you have, not what you lack. Start to notice when you are not being grateful, and engage in activities that help you feel good. Don’t take for granted the everyday occurrences and amenities life has to offer. Cherish all of them and redirect your attitude to what you have now. How do you stay grateful? Take the survey to the top right or comment below!
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