There a ton of blogs out there on gratefulness giving you lists and ideas on how to be more grateful, and this is NOT another one of those. This blog is about how you know when you are affectively applying gratefulness to your life, and what the impact actually looks and feels like. However, I will still provide some tips on how to grow gratitude.
There is a lot of hype in the wellness world about how being grateful is one of the most powerful human emotions. What does it mean to be grateful? Being grateful is all about focusing on what is good in our lives and be thankful or appreciative of it. Often it comes across as some magical medicine that will make everything better in our life no matter what the circumstance. But that isn’t quite how it works. HOWEVER, it is still life changing!
It could make a situation 10 times better. But sometimes it won’t make a situation even 5% better. It all depends on the situation. So don’t feel guilty or feel like your not grateful enough if you can’t make the best of any situation.
I have spent quite a bit of time unpacking the concept of being grateful and trying to figure out if I’m practicing this concept enough, if being grateful was all I needed to be happy, if I was fully utilizing gratefulness, and these are my findings.
So, how do you know if you are grateful enough?? How do you know if you understand this concept?
Are You Grateful Enough? Only You Can Decide That.
Here are a few signs you are utilizing this concept in you life:
- Almost everyday, you catch yourself thinking, “I’m glad/happy/grateful I have this or that.”
– This could be you are just driving down the road and you say to yourself, “I’m so glad the sun is shinning today” or “I’m so glad it is warm out.”
– You wake up and think, “I’m so happy to wake up in this warm and cozy bed.”
– You look at your significant other or kids and think, “I’m so grateful to have them.”
– You look at your house and think, “wow I’m glad I own this place, or what a great apartment (some people don’t even have a roof over their heads).”
– You have a delicious meal and think “wow it is so great to have this food.”
– You think “I can’t wait to get home to my pet I love that I have him/her to cuddle.”
- If you find yourself just smiling for like no reason at all.
- You just find yourself often relaxing in a meditative state where you feel at peace with life, not concerned with anything that isn’t perfect or isn’t the way you want it to be.
- If you do a grateful journal and write down every day some things you are grateful for (not the same things everyday, try to pick new things from a list of concepts) If you don’t feel more peaceful or a greater sense of happiness, being grateful is probably not what you need, or you are already a pretty grateful person.
I can tell you almost everyday I catch myself thinking one or more of those thoughts. I smile sometimes for no reason. I have many moments of just feeling at peace with my life where I’m at in that moment, and I have done grateful journaling not too long ago and I didn’t feel any different.
What are the Benefits of Being Grateful?
When you feel grateful it improves your mood, increases your self-esteem, it is easier to be kind to others, and be more empathetic toward other people. It helps with building and improving relationships. Gratitude reduces a multitude of toxic emotions, from envy and resentment to frustration and regret (Morin, 2015). It can improve both mental and even physical health (reducing stress and helping you to exercise more and eat healthier).
A 10 week study was done where one group of people had to write about things that irritated them daily, and the other wrote about things they were grateful for. The one’s who wrote grateful things ended up being more optimistic and feeling better about life. Surprisingly, they also exercised more and had fewer visits to physicians than those who focused on sources of aggravation (Harvard Health, 2021).
35 Scientific Benefits of Gratitude: Mental Health Research Findings
Okay, so let me tell you a bit about my experience with this. This is how it has been life changing, and at certain times in my life hasn’t helped me that much.
How Being Grateful Has Impacted My Life
Suffering with Chronic Illness & Applying Gratefulness to My Life
Suffering from severe chronic illness 8 years ago caused me loads of pain, depression, and being grateful didn’t do much for me. Yes, I was grateful to have a husband who could take care of me, but I was so depressed I didn’t want to be alive (not like suicidal, just wished I was dying). Plus, I just felt miserable feeling that way and my husband knowing I felt that way.
Now we just don’t talk about that terrible time. I mean I don’t want to remember the way I felt. I’m so far removed from feeling that, it just feels odd to me that I felt that way at one time. I do feel like it lives with us (in a healthy way) even though we never talk about it. We both live with this gratefulness that my health significantly improved and my happiness. My health hasn’t been amazing since that awful year, but we know that we have come a long way.
When I got better, I became grateful that I wanted to just be alive no matter what pain I suffered with both mentally and physically. Just appreciating and being happy to be alive is huge. My health still isn’t where I want it to be, but even with a health flare up within a couple days I’m back to my energetic, happy, and grateful self. Just being healthy is something a lot of people take for granted. But when your health falls apart, it is really hard to appreciate everything else you have.
I realize I have a REALLY good life! There are many things I have to be grateful for especially now that I moved to the South. I’m grateful for better weather, better food, more time in nature, and adventures. I’ve always been grateful for being an entrepreneur – owning my own business, my artistic skills, my beautiful home, tons of awesome friends and family, etc.
EXPECTATIONS are a Problem with Being Grateful
I have never been one to just expect that I would have this and that. I never thought about my future thinking… I deserve and I’m going to get the house I dream about, the dream job, the dream whatever. Instead, I have always set my expectations low, my dreams close to reasonable, and my appreciation higher.
Today, I just look at everything I have and think how the heck did I get here? I really love the area I moved to and my new home and I constantly feel grateful. I have met so many of my reasonable dreams and obtained amazing things I didn’t even know I wanted. I think those things, even though there are so many more things I want and I still struggle with my health.
Sometimes Being Grateful is All I Need to Be Happy
When I take a break from thinking about work, thinking about my health, or the future, being grateful is all I need to be happy.
Sometimes I just think about how I have such an amazing husband and I’m super happy.
When I think of all that I’m grateful for I count my husband more than once on the list. I was grateful for him back then when I was sick and depressed and he was doing everything in his power to take care of our home, our cats, and me, and make me happy. But today, I feel even more grateful for him than I ever did in the past. I don’t know if it is because I love him more and he loves me more, or maybe it helps that I am just healthier and happier and I know I wouldn’t be today if it weren’t for him.
He was my reason to get out of bed in the morning, and the one person who knew what I was going through. He always wants to make me happy, and help me find a way to heal. I can’t ever say anything bad about him because he is just the most amazing person. Life is difficult, but for some reason our marriage is not. I think maybe it was a gift since we have been given so many challenges.
When Being Grateful Wasn’t What I Needed
Some years being grateful has made me really happy. Like 2018 was a really good year for me! But last year I really hit a wall where I was just done with Wisconsin. The weather would bother me no matter how hard I tried to be happy. I did do A LOT of things that made me temporarily happier… taking trips, spending time with friends, new activities, art, etc. But as a whole I wasn’t happy. My husband was stressed with his job, we wanted a new home, we wanted to live some place warmer where we could spend more time in nature. Sure, I would still walk around my house and think I love this or that, I’m so lucky to have my husband he is amazing, I have so many cool people in my life, I love my cats, etc. But I needed change, being grateful was not enough.
It is good to be grateful all the time for what you do have, but like I said it isn’t a magical pill you take that makes life better. It doesn’t automatically make a person happy. You might just need a change in you life if you find gratefulness is barely working for you. However, if you are dealing with some really hard stuff like health issues, then don’t feel bad if being grateful isn’t helping much. Even if you are super religious, depression is a horrible beast that often can’t be defeated with gratefulness alone.
When I’ve had to deal with terrible pain being grateful can help me feel 10% better, but sometimes only 2-5% better. However, it is always worth it to feel that gratefulness. It does help even if it is just 2-5%.
Being Grateful Where You Are Right Now – Are You Headed in the Right Direction?
My husband and I were talking not too long ago, and we were like “when it comes to the big things in our lives we have no regrets.” We are both working toward the life we want, and mostly living the life we want. We have things out of our control that we wish we had control over, but we accept that we are doing our best with the obstacles we face.
When you reflect on your life, is there anything you would like to change right now that is within your control? And if you say no, then you can get so much more benefits from being grateful. It doesn’t mean everything is going great in your life, it just means you are working toward change.
If the answer is yes, you can still be grateful, but it is time to make some changes. If you are watching too much news and reading too many negative things that is definitely something to change. Other changes can be a bit more complicated, such as changing something in a relationship. Just focus on small steps and be patient.
Other Concepts on How to be MORE Grateful
Knowing Yourself is a KEY to Being Grateful
Honestly, one of the things I’m most grateful for is just how well I know myself and accept myself as is. It’s not like I don’t have days where I feel low self esteem, insecurities, or feel I could be a better person. It is more of a healthy overall good feeling about who I am and who I’ve become.
I think one of the keys to being grateful is just knowing yourself. If you know yourself and what really makes you happy, it is easier to obtain it and be grateful for it. Many times the focus is on being grateful for material things, health, family, or friends. But what about being grateful for: self love? your relationship with yourself? how proud you are of who you are? who you have become? We are often so focused on doing, doing things for others, and our needs and our relationship with ourself gets ignored.
Meditation & Mindfulness
Meditation is a great way to add more gratefulness into your life. Meditation helps you to be more mindful – focusing on the present vs the future or the past. When you appreciate things in the present, you are being grateful. I used to do a lot of meditation when I was severely sick, and I think it helped me more today than ever before. I have a lot of dreams and goals, but I try not to become so wrapped up in them that I become unhappy with where I am in the present. I do this through mindfulness.
Now I typically do a lot of mindfulness exercises vs meditation. You don’t have to meditate to be mindful. Being mindful can be focusing your mind on the present activity your doing (i.e. you are washing dishes and only thinking about the activity of washing dishes, not the meal you just had, what you are going to do next, or a conversation you had over dinner, etc). Your mind might wonder, but that’s okay, just revert back to thinking about the activity you are doing.
You can take walks and be mindful, sit and stare at nature, pet the dog, etc. I practice mindfulness a lot by just having relaxing moments in nature where I don’t think about anything but the beauty around me.
Journaling and Making Lists (As I mentioned previously)
If you are going to list the things you are grateful for make sure you also list the small things, as well. Write down that you are grateful for a sunny day, or sipping hot coffee, eating chocolate (my thing), your cute/annoying pet, the cool things you have done or seen in the past, and everything in between.
Gratitude List: 200+ Things to Be Grateful For
151 Gratitude Journal Prompts for Daily Thankfulness
You can also find gratefulness through doing charitable things, and being grateful for opportunities to make a difference in other people’s lives.
I don’t want to get too deep into this, but we can’t talk about gratefulness and not talk about the bible. The bible has many lessons on being grateful and the major one is being grateful for the opportunity to go to heaven by believing in Jesus and how he was sacrificed for our sins and rose from the grave. We should be grateful for what Jesus did sacrificing himself so that our sins may be forgiven. This could be all you need to feel grateful.
I definitely can fill my cup of gratefulness by attending church, praying, reading the bible, etc. These are all ongoing things I am doing, and I feel I need to keep doing to continue to be a grateful person.
Sometimes people make the mistake of telling others that are dealing with hardships that they just need to read the bible more, attend church, or pray. While these things could help a person through their struggles, being empathetic to what a person is going through is a better direction to go. Making someone feel like their pain is there because they are not a good enough Christian is not what a person needs. And that is not at all how life works.
Praying is a great way to practice being grateful. A big portion of praying is just thanking God for the good things that happen in our life. Thanking God for the things that happen in our life is what it really means to be grateful.
Harvard Health Publishing/Giving thanks can make you happier. (2021, August 14). Retrieved from: https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/giving-thanks-can-make-you-happier
Morin, Amy. (2015, April 3). Psychology Today/7 Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/what-mentally-strong-people-dont-do/201504/7-scientifically-proven-benefits-of-gratitude
I am a business owner, marketer, innovator, writer, and artist. I have a passion for wellness with a wealth of knowledge surrounding: wellness, flaws in healthcare, root causes for chronic illnesses, and alternative treatments. My expertise includes over 5 years of marketing, research, and developing content for holistic health businesses. Plus, my own personal journey of becoming chronically sick: understanding what went wrong, and finding a way to heal and live a healthier life.