I’ve been reading Thanks! by Robert A. Emmons and recently finished the book. All I can say is WOW! What an eye-opener. The book was such a refreshing reminder to me – and inspired me to switch up today’s Thursday Thankful List.
This week, in honor of those who died in 9/11, I’m going to share Dr. Emmons Top 10 list for staying thankful in all situations.
1. Keep a gratitude journal.
By actively reminding yourself the gifts, grace, benefits and good things daily, you are cultivating gratitude. Research shows that people who write down what they are grateful for everyday are happier. It’s important to remember to UPDATE the gratitude list.
Yes, it’s okay to be thankful for the same things – my parents, sisters, opportunities and friendship are on my thankful list every day – but keeping your list refreshed allows you to be open to all of life’s goodness. Writing down even five things I’m thankful every morning and night immediately shifts my attitude and perception on life. Seriously, try it. You will notice a change almost instantaneously.
2. Remember the bad.
Can you recall a time when life was not so pleasant? Trust me – I’ve had them and they are NOT good. At all. It’s important to consciously remember these experiences because then you can truly appreciate the good. You got through that specific trauma or trial or bad relationship and are now in a different, better place.
3. Ask yourself three questions.
- What have I received from _______?
- What have I given to _____?
- What troubles and difficulties have I caused _______?
These questions help identify troubles in relationships. The first is to remember all the gifts you have received, tangible or intangible. The second is to allow us to realize how connected we are with others, in order to remove the sense of entitlement. The third is hard – but necessary. It is to become aware that we sometimes cause pain in others’ lives and remember how much grace we’ve been given.
4. Learn prayers of gratitude.
Studies prove that people spend more time praying than doing just about anything else. In fact, I should be doing it more. Those who pray more to become more gratitude often in turn, become more grateful. Prayer is practiced across religions and spiritual groups – and allows us to say thank you to God or a higher power.
5. Come to your sense.
Do you ever take the time to be thankful for your health, your body, your bones and muscles, your eyes that can see, just the sheer fact that you are ALIVE? Spend time deeply breathing and use all five senses – smell, taste, sight, touch and hearing. Gratitude begins with the basics.
6. Use visual reminders.
The two primary obstacles to being grateful are FORGETFULNESS and lack of MINDFUL AWARENESS. You might need to have an accountability partner to help remind you to be thankful, you might need to put Post-It notes in your office and apartment, you might need to send yourself email reminders. Internal instincts are not always good enough – we live in social contexts so make sure you are physically reminded of the goodness in your life.
7. Make a Vow to Practice Gratitude.
Declaring that YOU WILL be more grateful and live a more thankful life is the first step! Seriously, why do you think people make vows to lose weight or get married – they mean serious business (obviously, these are two completely different subjects!) A vow simply reminds us to keep our promises. Promise/vow to be more thankful and you’re halfway there.
8. Watch your Language.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said “We are what we think about all day long.” What we talk about truly is what we become. Change your mood and mindset toward life by changing your words. Say things like: “I have so much to be grateful for!”, “Today is a gift” and “I am truly blessed.”
9. Go Through the Motions.
Now it’s time to now just think about being grateful, or say thank you are thankful but DOING it. Living it. Write thank you notes, say thank you, express your gratitude and blessings out loud to other people.
10. Think Outside the Box.
With thankfulness, it’s important to be creative. Have you ever thought to be thankful for the people that harm you? They are making you stronger. Are you thankful for the people YOU help? They are teaching you compassion. It’s vital to take joy in your life and make the absolute best out of whatever happens. Life is not perfect and never will be – but appreciating every little situation and thing that comes your way truly opens your eyes to what a fantastic experience life is.
What are you thankful for today?