How often do you stop to list the things in your life you're most grateful for? If your answer is, "Not often enough!" I'm with you. Maybe it's because I was raised Jewish, and in our tradition declaring that you're happy is said to invite bad events. Whatever the reason, I have an annoying tendency to focus on the negative.
Very annoying, according to my husband, who over a recent breakfast in North Platte, Nebraska lit into me for my consistently dark outlook. In my defense, I was sleeping in a van at the time. Nevertheless, he was right. We were in the middle of a long-dreamed-of cross-country relocation. We were making the move in support of his music career and it was working: he already had a gig awaiting him when we arrived. My business was going better than ever, just at the time when we needed it to finance the move. We really had a lot for which to be grateful. And once I got over being angry about it, I was grateful to him for the reminder.
I still have a lot of trouble being as grateful as I should for all the wonderful things in my life. But I'm working on it, out of pure selfishness. Reminding yourself to feel grateful is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Few mental adjustments bring so great a benefit. Consider all the good things that can happen if you start reminding yourself, even just once a day, of all you have to be grateful about:
1. You'll be in a better mood.
Focusing on your reasons for gratitude means focusing on the things that make you happy. And as I'm trying hard to learn, being happy about the good things in your life won't cause the Evil Eye to come after you. It will just give you a more optimistic outlook, which will in turn make you feel happier and more grateful. It's a self-reinforcing cycle, and that's a good thing.
2. You'll be more popular.
If your usual attitude is to be grateful for the good things in your life and you have a positive, happy outlook, you will be more fun to be around than if you're constantly griping about everything. Most people are drawn to those who are positive, happy, and optimistic than they are to constant complainers. Your happy attitude may even prove to be contagious, making them happier too.
3. You'll be more resilient.
Practicing gratitude will tend to give you a sense of perspective. If, as many gratitude gurus recommend, you start the day by mentally listing three things you're grateful for before you even get out of bed, you'll have a much better sense of what really matters than if you start the day by reaching for your phone or tablet and reading your email.
That sense of perspective may make a difference when you're faced with a difficult co-worker, employee, or customer, a business or personal setback, or any of the other frustrations of modern life. You'll be likelier to handle those frustrations with more wisdom, because keeping the things you're grateful for in mind will help you see the big picture.
4. You'll be more generous.
I'm not just talking about actual giving, although that might happen as well. I mean something larger--the ability to consider a situation from someone else's point of view and treat that person with as much kindness as possible. Remembering that you're grateful for your job or business will help you get over your aggravation if one of your co-workers or employees leaves a task unfinished so that you have to complete it.
5. You'll be better off if the Law of Attraction is real.
Some people are big believers in the Law of Attraction (a.k.a. The Secret), which says that which you focus on will come to you. That is, if you're always thinking about debt, you'll have more debt. If you're always thinking about wealth, you'll have more wealth.
I'm not sure I subscribe to this view. In particular, it seems to me that the people with the most debt are those who never think about it all. But I do believe that where we focus our attention, we are likelier to make things happen, and so if nothing else, the Law of Attraction has homed in on a profound part of human nature. Will thinking about what we're grateful for tend to bring us more of whatever that is? It seems highly possible to me that it will.
6. You'll live longer.
Three years ago, research confirmed what most of us have already observed: Happier people live longer, healthier lives. In a surprising study, researchers divided older people into happy, unhappy, and in-between categories and then tracked them over five years. More of the unhappy group died than either of the other two, and once researchers had controlled for age, chronic illness, depression, and healthy or unhealthy behaviors (such as getting regular exercise), they found that happy people were 35 percent less likely to die than unhappy ones. Practicing gratitude will not only make your life more enjoyable, it could actually give you more life.
It seems worth doing, doesn't it?