When you are constantly working towards your goals and striving to get ahead, it can feel like there’s never enough. Not enough time, not enough success, not enough attention.
There is so much to feel stressed and dissatisfied about, and those emotions actually often serve us well. Wanting to change the quality of your life from bad to good is a powerful motivator!
But so many of us aren’t living lives that are bad. In fact, our lives our pretty good. Yes, there are setbacks and missed targets, but there’s often just as much (if not more) progress and goals achieved.
Feeling dissatisfied can sometimes motivate us, but it often holds us back. If all you ever think about is what isn’t working and what you’re not getting, it’s easy to want to give up.
By now, you’ve probably heard that gratitude is good for you.
But if you are struggling to find ways to make gratitude a part of your life — or if you’re just not sure why you should — then read on to find out how to start enjoying the scientifically proven benefits of gratitude in your life every single day.
Why gratitude is good for you and your goals
According to the UC Berkeley Greater Good Science Center, consistent gratitude practice results in:
- Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
- Higher levels of positive emotions
- More joy, optimism, and happiness
- Acting with more generosity and compassion
- Feeling less lonely and isolated
Gratitude doesn’t mean complacency. I know if you’re reading this blog that you are someone who wants more and who has goals to work hard and change your life for the better. However, it is possible to stay hungry and be grateful.
In fact, gratitude can actually help you move forward on your goals and feel happier and healthier while you get there. When you feel like you are supported, successful, lucky, and on the right track, you can go so much farther than if you feel discouraged and unlucky.
Plus there’s this: when you are positive and thankful, it radiates to the people around you. The more people who love to work with you, the more successful you will become as you draw in like-minded happy, motivated people.
Gratitude is the shift in mindset from struggle to success
So yes, it is good to be grateful. Now how do you do it consistently?
Every article out there will tell you to keep a daily gratitude journal, of course. But if you aren’t practiced at finding the things you’re grateful for and writing about them every day, that can be a hard habit to develop. And failing at writing your gratitude list will obviously have the reverse effect that it’s supposed to!
So in this post, I wanted to share some of our favorite really actionable, useful strategies for developing a daily or weekly gratitude habit that you can do anytime and that will help you seriously feel the benefits of gratitude.
Write your reverse bucket list
Everyone knows what a bucket list is: it’s all the things you want to do before you “kick the bucket”. But a reverse bucket way is an amazing tool to help you feel amazingly grateful right now.
Instead of looking ahead at all the great things you want to do, take a look back at the things that you’ve already achieved. Don’t just reminisce — make a list, write it all down. Create a concrete reference that you can look back on and add to.
Looking at your successes is good for your confidence. If you’re feeling unsure of yourself, looking at the many amazing things you’ve already done can help remind your brain that actually you have a long track record of success. If you did it before, you can do it again.
It also helps to put failure into perspective. As you’re walking out the door after a bad presentation, it can feel like the only thing that matters in the world is how badly you just messed up.
So what kinds of things can you put on a reverse bucket list?
Anything really! Write anything that you are proud of or that you consider an amazing moment in your life. Maybe it’s launching your website, or maybe it’s giving birth. Maybe it’s the friend you’ve had since second grade, or maybe it’s an amazing trip you took overseas.
When you can see how far you’ve come and how much you already have under your belt to be grateful for and proud of, it becomes easier to identify the things you can be grateful every day and to make gratitude a regular practice.
Make a list of everyone who has changed you for the better
Nobody gets to the top without any help. We all have people who we are grateful to, either for opportunities that they have given us or for life lessons they helped us learn.
- Who has changed you for the better?
- Who gave you a chance?
- Who helped you do something big?
Write down their names and how they helped you. Think big and small, personally and professionally.
Research has shown that even just thinking about the people you are grateful for increases your happiness; expressing it increases your happiness even more.
If you really want to reap some positive psychology benefits, tell the people on your list how grateful you are for them! Turn your gratitude notes into an email or card, and send it. Studies have shown that sending even just one note expressing your thanks can increase your overall happiness for a month!
And if you want extra extra credit and it is possible, try spending more time with the people on your list. After all, if they changed you for the better before, they are probably going to keep being good for you! Plus, if you tell them that it’s because they inspire you or you like to learn from them, what an amazing compliment to pay someone. Feeling and showing gratitude does wonders for strengthening relationships, even with people you don’t see very often.
Reframe a problem or past experience
People who are focused on learning something from their failures tend to take away much more value than people who simply walk away.
If you are facing a problem, try journaling about it by answering these questions:
- Is there anything good about this situation? What is going well/okay?
- What lessons am I learning?
- What opportunities can/will come out of this?
If you look at your problem from this angle, you may find that things are going better than you feel like they are, or you might discover that even through the struggles you are still gaining benefits.
There are things to be grateful for even in the hard stuff.
This can also be a valuable exercise for looking back on a project or an interaction that still haunts you. Sometimes it can be hard to let go of something that felt like a disaster; it sometimes feels good to wallow in how bad it feels to fail.
But it feels even better to be grateful for lessons learned and to move on from the struggle. Look back on a failure and see if there is a way to reframe it in your mind.
Not only will this help you let go of past failures, but it will help you learn to be more open and grateful during future failures (because unfortunately, there are always future failures to be had). The better you can handle failure and see the opportunities it brings, the more effectively and healthily you will deal with it so you can go on to bigger and better things sooner.
Transform an ungrateful thought
Don’t feel bad if you don’t feel grateful all the time. It’s nearly impossible! Don’t beat yourself up if you find yourself feeling stressed or unhappy sometimes throughout the day — it does not mean that you are failing at being grateful.
Instead, simply acknowledge your ungrateful feelings as they come. Then, try this exercise.
Once a day, notice your ungrateful thought and then write it down. What stressed you out or made you mad today? Write it down — be honest and express your feelings.
Then, turn it into something you are grateful for. Look at it, stare at it, and force yourself to find something to be grateful for in there.
- Version 1. My boss changed her plans at the last minute and left a huge project for me to do all on my own with no help. I was so stressed trying to get everything done, and it wasn’t fair because this was her work to do originally.
- Version 2. I was able to get the project done, even on short notice. I am proud of my ability to rise to the occasion under pressure.
This doesn’t fix your problem, of course, but it does change your perspective. Feeling empowered by the positives that you can take away from a negative can also improve your ability to actually solve the problem later.
If you need to talk to your boss about your workload, seeing yourself as a put-upon victim does not put you in the right mindframe for a successful conversation. However, if you see yourself as a superstar who can do anything that gets thrown at you, then you are in a much more powerful and productive position going into that conversation about what you need from your boss.
You are more likely to win when you feel like a winner.
Get good at gratitude
We are so excited to be working on a new gratitude journal here at Ink & Volt. It is going to incorporate some of these exercises and so much more to help you start enjoying the scientific benefits of gratitude like greater health, happiness, and success.
What do you do to feel gratitude every day? Have you tried any of these exercises? Tell us about your experiences on our Facebook page!