The Power of Gratitude

Do you feel buried beneath the negativity of your day-to-day life? Are struggling just to hold on and make it through your days? I want you to know you’re not alone, I am right here with you. Today we are going to talk about the power of gratitude and how to harness it to begin to change our focus.

Gratitude is one of those things on this earth that packs a powerful punch, but it’s also one of the easiest things to lose sight of. It’s easy to see and have gratitude in those moments when amazing miracles happen to us, but in all honesty those are usually few and far between. To understand the power of gratitude we first must understand what it is.

If you were to look up the word gratitude on dictionary.com, you will find it defines it as the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful. Hang on a sec, gratitude is a quality or feeling, so it’s not just about the words I say or the head nod of thanks I gave the kid holding the door for me today? How many times a day do we say the words thank you or thanks?

Really let’s think about this, in the last couple of days, how many times have you said those words? I know I’ve said them a ton, but let’s dig a little deeper. In each one of these moments how much feeling was behind those words we said? My guess is that there are times when we truly felt and relayed our gratitude, but most of the time, I am pretty sure they’re just simply words. But if gratitude is a feeling then we aren’t harnessing the full power of gratitude.

Why is this so important for us to understand?

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a halfhearted thank you? Of course, you have, we all have. When it happens, we immediately know it wasn’t heartfelt, so we brush it off and continue on our way. But what happens when the thank you-s aren’t just words, when we can truly feel the other persons gratitude? Do we receive that differently, does it create an actual feeling in our bodies? I know it does in mine! And what about when we, personally express the feeling of gratitude, how does that feel? Does it give us a boost in our day or brighten our inner light? Absolutely! There is a huge difference between the empty gratitude of just words and gratitude that we truly feel.  

You know the saying the proof is in the pudding, well the power of gratitude is in the feelings!  

So now that we know what gratitude is let’s talk about the power of it. Just saying the ‘power of gratitude’ seems like a big claim, but it has been researched quite a bit. Full studies on gratitude have been done and they all show the benefits that gratitude has on us personally and in our lives.

At harvardhealth.com, there is one study that I absolutely love, a quick synopsis is 2 psychologists from The University of Miami performed a study of 3 separate groups. Each group was tasked with writing certain things that happened in their daily lives. They did this for the length of 10 weeks, 1 group was tasked with writing the things they were grateful for, one group wrote about the things that irritated them and the final group wrote about events that happened to them and it didn’t matter whether they were positive or negative.

What they found

Guess what they found…the group that focused on things they were grateful for were more optimistic and felt better about their lives. How amazing is that? They’ve proved that by simply being grateful we have the power to change our life! Now this is not the only study that has been done on gratitude, there are many more with the same types of results and I encourage you to research it if your called to do so.

Did you notice that in this study they didn’t ask the participants to only jot down what they were grateful for, for just a day or 2? No, it was a 10 week study and I know that sounds like a long time, but don’t let that scare you. Here’s the silver lining, it takes an average of only 66 days to build a habit, a habit is a behavior that is automatic and you, just like the participants can change your life by building a habit of focusing on gratitude!  

The Challenge

So, as I am guessing you already know my challenge for you is to spend a few minutes each day recalling the things in your life that you are grateful for. This isn’t going to be hours spent, but truly minutes, simply look back throughout your day. Notice all the things, big and small that you’re grateful for. Kick it up a notch and allow your body to feel that “feeling” of gratitude whether you felt it in that moment or not. 

I know this challenge may sound hard right now, but I promise you the more you do it the easier it will become. Before you know it your mind will automatically find those moments of gratitude and you may notice the negative becoming less and less of a focus. This is because where we focus, we go. Just like in your vehicle, as you glace out the window to your left, you also find yourself steering towards the left, because where we look, we go. So, start looking at the gratitude and I promise you, you’ll find more gratitude which in turn will increases your joy in life. 

Happily Ever After? 

Alright. So maybe right now you’re thinking, okay Char I’ll take you up on your challenge. I’ll start focusing on the gratitude every day, my life will be full of joy, and I’ll live happily ever after, right?  

Well, I pledged to always be honest with you, so unfortunately no, it’s not going to be that easy. We are humans, who live messy, stressful human lives. We are also hardwired to look for and see the negative, the danger, risk, and obstacles around us. Just like the first people who walked the earth, we are hardwired for survival, and stopping to smell the roses or looking for gratitude certainly doesn’t increase our chances of that.  

So, I assure you, life will get in the way, I know it does for me. Just like this past week, we found ourselves in a 4-day power outage and it was the worst, there is no sugar coating it. The first day and halfway through the second I did okay. I maintained my positive attitude, but that night, suddenly it began to slip. I knew I had to stay positive for my son and hubby, but internally I was really struggling. By the third day my light (no pun intended) was very low.

My smile had fallen 

My smile had fallen off my face and I could no longer be positive for anyone. I even openly agreed with my son and said, “Yep, this completely sucks!” That night I laid in bed in my hoodie, sweats, and socks and covered by multiple blankets, because about 1am I knew it was really going to cold. As I lay there grumbling thinking about all the irritations that come with a major power outage, I suddenly realized, “yeah, this situation totally sucks, but it could be so much worse! This isn’t even the worst thing we’ve ever lived through”.  

I realized that my bad attitude was actually adding to this already difficult situation, not just for myself, but for everyone around me. In that moment I knew what I had been missing, I had lost sight of the positive things around us, the things I was grateful for, and they were there, but all I could see was the negative aspects. During those last 3 days gratitude for anything in my life had been so far from my mind that it felt like I didn’t even know what gratitude was.

With just that realization my mind went to work, it recalled thing after thing that I was grateful for. Big things, small things, funny things, people, places, and feelings. It wasn’t hard once I started and it didn’t take long, but I had to get out of my own way. I had to choose to see all the blessings in my life and by doing so I could feel the shift taking place in me.  

It won’t be easy

Oh yes, it won’t always be easy, life will get in the way, but what is so exciting is that we hold to power to change our focus at any time. We can lose focus of and refocus on the gratitude, a million times in this life, and each time we make the choice to put our focus back on gratitude we take back our control. We can choose the power of gratitude as many times as we need to.

Change our focus

So, how do we change our focus? Well, we go on an Easter Egg Hunt, but instead of eggs, we begin hunting for things we are grateful for. They can be anything like people, pets, material items, comforts like power and even places. Everything and anything can evoke the feeling of gratitude and it’s be different for everyone.  I know when I am extremely stressed and need to change my focus my go to moment is standing on the beach with my daughter beside me. Just the smell of the ocean causes so much gratitude that I have a physical sensation in my body. 

Now, if you haven’t focused on gratitude in a while or your just feeling buried by negativity, you may be thinking, Char there is nothing in my life to be grateful for. And if that’s the case I am asking you to start with the teeny tiny things, like I am grateful that my shoes match today, I am thankful that I own a toothbrush, or I am grateful that I woke up this morning. And don’t worry you’ll likely find it difficult to “Feel” the gratitude right now, I just want you to simply find it.

You’re going to have to make an effort to, and it’s not going to be easy, but what happens, pretty quickly is that by focusing on the small things, the mind will naturally begin to see and point out the bigger ones. One day soon your mind will rattle off its gratitude and you won’t even catch it, then suddenly you’ll realize, whoa I was just grateful for something that I wasn’t even looking for and, in that moment, I want you to let the feeling of gratitude wash over you. 

Start right now

Alright, let’s begin this challenge right now, I want you to find 3 things you are grateful for. If you have access to paper write them down, if not speak them out loud, and if you’re at work just say them in your head! What are 3 things you are grateful for….. 

The challenge is to spend a few minutes each day finding the gratitude, but I encourage you to write them down. Writing them is a powerful exercise, it allows the brain to focus on each item you’re grateful for and you can see how the more you focus on it the longer your lists become, then when you lose focus on the gratitude, you can always return to these lists for inspiration.  

I’d like to thank you for spending this time with me, I am truly grateful for you.  I hope you have enjoyed this post and that it helps you to understand the immense power gratitude holds and how you can use it to change your focus.  

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Until next time may your days be filled with love and light and remember you have the power to change your life.