I am so happy and grateful for the life energy that flows through me today.

Practicing gratitude as a tool for happiness has been in the mainstream for many years. Research supports the effectiveness of expressions of gratitude in better physical, mental and emotional health; better teamwork and success in work, peak performance in sports and business; a higher sense of well-being, and a faster rate of recovery from surgery. Even though this is so and we’ve heard it said so many times that we should be grateful, exactly how do we sustain this practice?

We human beings have been socialized to notice what is broken, undone or lacking in our lives. For gratitude to do its therapeutic work, it needs to become more than just a word used at Thanksgiving. We must learn a new way of looking at things, develop a new habit if you will. And that can take some time.

That’s why practicing gratitude makes so much sense. When we practice giving thanks for all we have, instead of complaining about what we lack, we give ourselves the chance to see all of life as an opportunity and a blessing.

Remember that gratitude isn’t a blindly optimistic approach in which the bad things in life are whitewashed or ignored. It’s more a matter of where we put our focus and attention. Pain and injustice exist in this world, but when we focus on the gifts of life, we gain a feeling of well-being.

Gratitude balances us and gives us hope.

What are the pain points in your life? Is there a way for you to look at that pain and find the lessons it taught you? For example, there was a time in my life when I couldn’t walk and the pain was so excruciating that I was on morphine for what seemed like an eternity (and this while I was living in a foreign country where I knew no one). I was scared, lonely and anxious. I had just moved there and knew no one. I am now very grateful for the ability to walk. I no longer take putting one leg in front of the other for granted. In fact, every time I stand I give thanks for legs. I am grateful for the colleagues who became friends as they visited and supported me, for they helped to maintain my mental health. That experience taught me that people do care, even if they don’t know you well, there are people everywhere who have a heart.

There are so many things to be grateful for: the wind on your skin, the colour of the trees, legs that work, friends who listen and really hear, chocolate, fresh eggs, warm jackets, tomatoes, the ability to read, roses, our health, butterflies, the ability to hear, the gift of sight.

What’s on your list?

Here are a few Ways to Practice Gratitude

  • Keep a gratitude journal in which you list things for which you are thankful. You can make daily, weekly or monthly lists. The more often that you do it, the greater likelihood of gratitude becoming a new habit. If you struggle with writing each day, don’t worry. Just keeping that journal where you can see it will remind you to think in a grateful way.
  • Make a gratitude collage by drawing or pasting pictures.
  • Practice gratitude around the dinner table or make it part of your nighttime routine.
  • Make a game of finding the hidden blessing in a challenging situation.
  • When you feel like complaining, STOP. Be grateful that you have the ability to complain! You’ll laugh at yourself (and probably at me for being so crazy as to suggest this) and then be prepared to be amazed by how much better you feel.
  • Notice how gratitude is impacting your life. Write about it, sing about it, express thanks for gratitude.

As you practice, an inner shift begins to occur, and you may be delighted to discover how content and hopeful you are feeling. That sense of fulfillment is gratitude at work.