Practicing the Attitude of Gratitude
As a CLAC rep, I have the pleasure of being on work sites to meet with our members. While visiting one site, I walked into the lunch room and on the whiteboard the following was written in big red letters: “You can’t have a bad day with a good attitude, and you can’t have a good day with a bad attitude.”
I was struck by how true this statement is. A person’s attitude colours all of their interactions and affects the responses they receive throughout the day.
When we look for negativity, we always find it. When we look for things to be grateful for, we will always find them.
William Arthur Ward said it best: “Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings.”
But what is gratitude?
Dr. Robert Emmons, a leading researcher on gratitude and wellbeing, describes gratitude as “simply the affirmation that there are good things in the world and that we have received gifts and benefits from these things. It is also an acknowledgement that the sources of goodness can come from outside ourselves. Other people or even higher powers—if you are of a spiritual mindset—give us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Why does gratitude matter?
Research conducted by Dr. Emmons indicates that practicing an attitude of gratitude increases happiness and life satisfaction, reduces anxiety and depression, strengthens the immune system, lowers blood pressure, reduces symptoms of illness, allows for better sleep, and strengthens personal relationships.
5 Ways to Practice Gratitude
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
In the morning when you wake up and before you get out of bed, think of three things you are grateful for and write them down (e.g., having a comfortable bed to sleep in, a loving family, food on my table).
Then think of three things you can do that would make your day great, and write them down (e.g., call my best friend, take 15 minutes of me time, complete an assignment at work).
At night, before you go to sleep, make note of three great things that happened that day. They can be big or small (e.g., got a promotion, spring is arriving, had time to chat with a friend).
Then note three things you could have done to make the day better (e.g., have lunch with a friend, go to bed by 10 p.m., finish the assignment earlier).
The practice of recalling and writing things down keeps your focus on gratefulness all day long. You start with affirmation of good things, plan to do good things, keep an eye out for good things throughout the day, and reflect on them at the end of your day.
2. Keep a gratitude jar.
Every time something awesome or meaningful happens, make a quick note and toss it in the jar. You can take them out and read them when you are having a hard day or on your birthday or in January when you want to reflect on the past year and plan for the year to come.
3. Give a moment to gratitude at dinner.
Many people do this at Thanksgiving dinner, but why not make it a daily ritual? With whomever you have dinner with, or even if it’s just yourself, share or think of one thing you are grateful for over dinner. It keeps you in the mindset of looking for positive things.
4. Strive to give at least one compliment a day.
Giving a compliment helps build and strengthen work and personal relationships. Besides, there is an added benefit of making someone else’s day a bit brighter.
5. Check out online resources.
Are you more tech-minded? Check out the following gratitude apps/sites that can help you in your daily gratitude practice: happify.com, gratitude365app.com, happytapper.com.
What about the hard days? Okay, so I know that we all have difficult days where practicing gratitude may seem like an impossibility. But if we can think of hard days as an opportunity to be grateful for things that are not difficult, it can help us to move through the tough times. Dr. Robert Holden said, “The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.”
Remember, a positive attitude gives you power over your circumstances. It is not happy people who are grateful. It is grateful people who are happy.