Gratitude is usually understood with a short-term focus.
Taking time every day to make a gratitude list is one way to stay focused on the good things that happen and the small pleasures that bring on smiles.
Whether in a gratitude journal or in a thankfulness list, it is common to find three to five things each day for which to be grateful.
Take a Longer View
Sometimes it is worthwhile to take a longer view.
On occasion it helps to look back over a week or a month when making a gratitude list. Taking a longer view is especially useful during those times when many things mis-fire.
For example, last week my three-year old Toyota wouldn’t start and when the towing service arrived, I found that the car needed a new battery. Two days later, someone hit the front fender of my car in the grocery store parking lot and left me with repairs that totalled over $600. The following day, while en route to the body shop, a tire blew. While the damaged tire was under warranty, I needed to buy a matching tire as using a new tire on the same axle as a 3-year-old tire would not work well.
Overall, I paid over $1000 in unexpected car maintenance and repairs.
I was unhappy.
Then I considered how fortunate that I was to have an automobile club membership which meant that the tow truck that came to my home and replaced the battery did not charge a service fee. I paid only for the replacement battery. The tire blowout happened on a city street when I was travelling about 60 km/hour and not on the highway where I would have gone faster. The fender damage was unlucky — but in the grand scheme of things, it was only metal. I was not hurt.
As I gained perspective I began to consider the best thing that happened during the week. I had trouble deciding. Was it the carrot cake that I made for my daughter-in-law’s birthday which was much appreciated by everyone at her party? Was it finding — in a seldomly-used purse — a silver pen that had been a cherished retirement gift? Was it the volunteer time that I spent reading and editing copy for a memoir that a charity will soon publish?
Gratitude and Happiness
The positive psychology movement has demonstrated that gratitude is a key component of happiness and life satisfaction.
Negative thoughts, bitterness, envy, fear and self-pity happen to all of us on occasion. These feelings can lead to a downward spiral that drains energy and leads to crankiness and ‘down’ moods.
When this happens, a small change in how you see things and/or how you think about things can help you move out of a pessimistic funk and into a happier place. It’s time to practise gratitude.
The Skill of Practising Gratitude
Taking a moment to practise gratitude when things go wrong is a skill you can learn.
Instead of a mini-melt-down try taking a few deep breaths. As you exhale, count your blessings, recite a gratitude mantra, and appreciate the moment. As you keep taking deep breaths, think about how you can respond positively to whatever is happening.
This simple step is a method of practising gratitude. It will make you pause and will allow you to see things differently.
It may be a bad day in several areas of life — so take a longer view. Think of the many things that have enriched your life. Appreciate those who love you. Remember the things that have inspired you and shaped your life.
Practising gratitude will help to shift your perspective. Things start to look different. The way you view and perceive things can change with gratitude and a longer view.
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