If you want to build a better life, being grateful for the one you already have is a great place to start.
That’s the message Dr. Robert Emmons delivered recently through his work with the University of California-Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center. Emmons, an expert in the field of positive psychology, stressed grateful people empower themselves to construct ever more positive and happy lives.
Their results have shown that gratitude also offers serious benefits in the professional world. Indeed, one of the center’s recent studies showed 93 percent of workers perceive bosses who show gratitude regularly as more successful than those who did not.
If you’d like to cultivate more gratitude in your own life, here are a few ideas to get you started:
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Keep a gratitude journal to notice what you have instead of what you don’t have. Observe the world around you and challenge yourself to find things to be grateful for in this moment. Is the atmosphere calm? Did you have a good meal today? Are your loved ones well, or at least well cared-for? Noticing these things and putting them down on paper daily can help you explore your feelings and notice the good things in your life.
Acknowledge the Contributions of Others in Your Life
No one is self-made. Everyone you see has become the person they are thanks to their choices in life. Many of those choices were in response to the action and words of other people. Teachers, neighbors, friends, co-workers — all of these people have helped shape you into the person you are today. You can even be grateful for the negative influences in your life — they’ve provided you with models of the person you don’t want to become. The next time you do something well, ask yourself if you did it all under your own power or if your success rests partially on an important influence in your life. If it does, be grateful.
Express your gratitude for others and let their reactions further strengthen your sense of gratitude. Did your father stop by and help you take care of that home improvement problem that’s been nagging you all summer? Pick up a gift card from Lowe’s or Home Depot and hand deliver it to him. Have you ever said thanks for all the times your mother babysat so you and your spouse could head out on the town? Send her Mothers Day flowers from FTD. Did your neighbor keep your sidewalk free of snow all winter, even if was just an excuse to “play” with his new snow blower? Why not bake him something? Expressing thanks builds your gratitude muscle, so don’t hold back.
To truly build an attitude of gratitude, try serving others. Volunteer for an organization that fulfills a mission near and dear to your heart. Help feed the hungry. Set up chairs at an important public meeting or a religious service. Walk dogs from the local animal shelter. Volunteermatch.org is a great resource for finding volunteer opportunities with a cause that is important to you. The goal here is not to be the leader, but simply to serve. By doing so, you’ll feel grateful for the opportunity to positively impact others’ lives and notice any blessings you already have.
About the Author: Jack Reilly is a certified life coach who blogs about relationships, wellness and the power of positive thinking.