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How to strengthen your ‘gratitude muscle’ to appreciate your life today

By April 8, 2019 October 21st, 2019 No Comments
Gratitude

Anyone else noticed that everyone seems more agitated and generally annoyed with life these days?

Maybe it’s the constant comparative nature we’re finding ourselves subscribing to on social media (believe me I’m trying to cut down my usage too!!).

People seem to whinge about the smallest inconveniences, like their new iPhone being too old (nothing wrong with it) because a new one has been as there’s a new released, or their job being demanding (yet it provides for everything and MORE in their life). First. World. Problems!

It’s time for us all to stop and take a good look around. We’ve made it this far in life, so why are we constantly complaining?

I believe we get caught up in a toxic battle within ourselves, where we are constantly seeking more – a bigger house, a better salary, a fancier car, newer clothes… We feel like we should be doing more, even though we rarely have enough time for ourselves (because y’all know what it’s like juggling family, work and relationships).

Are you sick of feeling like this?

Would you like a magical cure?

Well I’m not from Hogwarts, but I’d love to inspire you to change your tune with a ‘gratitude mindset reset’. By learning to strengthen your gratitude muscle, you will become more appreciative and thankful for what you have in your life right now.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude is the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.

Think of your surroundings, your kids, your hubby, those regular Uber Eats you indulge in when you’re ‘too exhausted’ to cook or even that orthopaedic bed you sleep on to prevent back pain!

Being grateful does not only relate to ‘items’ but also intangible things like relationships and lifestyle. Think of how you feel when you daughter picks you a flower from the garden or your hubby makes you a cup of tea in bed, just because. Cultivating gratitude means valuing the things you have in your life for what they already are, not for what you wish they could be.

Be happy with what you’ve got.

Why practice gratitude?

Gratitude can reduce a multitude of toxic emotions and improve your life tenfold through improved self-esteem, sleep, and relationships. Robert A Emmons. Ph.D, an eminent gratitude researcher has confirmed through multiple studies that gratitude effectively increases happiness and reduces depression.

Here are some ways gratitude can shift your mindset and change your life. I’ve also included some workouts (mechanisms) to get your muscle flexin’ in the ‘gratitude gym’.

// 1. SHIFTS YOUR FOCUS

One of the main reasons why gratitude really works to change your mindset is that it shifts your focus. You see, life is all about focus. Where your attention goes – energy flows! For example, focussing on that old ghastly couch in your lounge creates a whole lot of negative feelings, which then seeps into your other areas of thinking. Instead switch these negative thoughts into positive ones, think about what you love in your lounge room – like your lush indoor plants, or those beautiful cushions and throw rug.

Gratitude exercise to shift your focus:

Rather than saying, “I hate that I HAVE TO make lunches every day for my kids”, try saying to yourself, “I am so grateful that I GET TO make healthy, fresh nutritious lunches every day for my children so that they don’t go hungry and are able to concentrate at school”. See the mindset shift here?

You have to do it anyway so it might as well come from a place of gratitude and love.

Same goes with exercise… rather than saying to yourself, “I HATE getting up early to exercise” – switch this thought to one of gratitude, like – “I GET to go to the gym in the morning!” Exercising is time for you, a chance to chat with friends, listen to great music (today’s F45 class was an 80’s mix – Duran Duran makes everything better!) AND, to increase your metabolism and build strong muscles. Plus, you get to treat yourself with a glass (or three!) of champagne on a Friday afternoon as a reward. What’s not to be grateful for here?

So anytime you catch yourself thinking negatively, try to shift to positive thoughts. Doing this in little ways everyday this will transform your mindset.

// 2. MAKES YOU FEEL HAPPIER

Research from Harvard Health found the more often you are in a happy mood, the more frequently you will automatically feel more grateful. Learning to control this ‘gratitude muscle’ will allow you to strengthen the intensity and length of this positive feeling.

In other words, gratitude makes you feel happier and feeling happier makes you feel more grateful… It’s a fabulous win-win situation, that doesn’t cost you money – your only investment is  a little bit of ‘me-time’ and reflection.

Gratitude exercise to feel happier:

Spending just five to ten minutes a week (doesn’t even have to be every day) writing in a gratitude journal will make you feel much happier. If you’re having trouble dedicating time, these days digital calendars work a charm. I use mine all the time! Combined family calendar app, Life Sorted is great for organising  family members’ schedules all in one place and locking in time for yourself. The great thing too is that it’s available on all devices! Check it out here. Mark time in your calendar every week to intentionally write down what you are grateful for. The gratitude produced during those few minutes each week is small, but the emotions felt during practising gratitude are enough to trigger a happy mood that lasts for hours and even days!

// 3. INCREASES YOUR CONFIDENCE

When you practise gratitude you’ll naturally become more tolerant, kinder and empathetic towards other people. These traits about you will attract more positive interactions and experiences with like-minded people.

You’ll also find that the behavior will be mirrored back at you. This is what I like to call the positive feedback loop.  

When you treat people, with love and appreciation you’ll find you will cultivate a much better relationship with them or even attract new friends. This is because people will feel appreciated and valued by you, so they’ll reciprocate this in their interactions with you. Remember how felt it good when you got praised last?

Gratitude exercise to increase confidence:

A study published by Science Daily in Emotion found, that the act of thanking a new acquaintance, makes them more likely to seek an ongoing relationship. This could be as simple as holding the door open for someone, or even sending a thank you note to a colleague. Gratitude doesn’t cost money but it will impact your life and the people around you profoundly – so what are you waiting for?

// 4. IMPROVES THE QUALITY OF YOUR SLEEP

Gratitude will drastically improve your sleep quality, the length of time it takes to fall asleep and any insomnia you may experience. As you’re more likely to focus on positivity, these negative emotions are no longer astray in your mind causing restless  and sleepless nights.

The key is to have a mind that is free from clutter, worries and any anxieties when it comes time to sleep. If you have concerns about the kids, work woes, stress or worries about finances these things will keep you up at night. A little gratitude thinking before bedtime will go a long way towards reducing stress.

Gratitude exercise to improve sleep:

This exercise is very easy. Before bed, just take a few mins to think of at least three things you have to be grateful for today. If you struggle with this try using the Calm app for a guided meditation.  

// 5. BUILDS YOUR RESILIENCE

Adopting  a gratitude mindset will make you mentally stronger when you find yourself in those sticky situations. Recognising what you have to be thankful for, will build a stronger resilient mind! You’ll then be ready to tackle anything that is draining, like financial worries or relationship problems.

Gratitude exercise to build resilience:

Being consistent with your positive, grateful attitude will ensure that gratitude becomes your default response, particularly in stressful or difficult situations.

To wrap up, practise these 5 exercises that make up the ‘Gratitude gym workout’ routine:

  1. Every time you catch yourself thinking negatively, switch your focus and thoughts towards the positive.
  2. Spend just 5-10 sacred minutes a week intentionally being grateful, carve out time for this each week in your Life Sorted app.
  3. Be appreciative, kind and loving to the people around you. This will be reflected right back at you. Send a thank you note or surprise someone you appreciate with a coffee!
  4. Right before you doze off to sleep, think of at least 3 things you are grateful for that day.
  5. Practice, practice, practice being grateful consistently – just as you would if you were going to the (gratitude) gym a few times a week!

Slowly watch as your life fills with more love, joy and abundance!

Jo x

Jo Burgess

About Jo Burgess

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