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How to be grateful




I don’t believe in God (in the sense of a paternal figure on a cloud).


But a childhood of being taken to church by my parents has left its mark.


As I’m about to go to sleep, I sometimes find myself saying,


🌟 “Thank you God for today”


🌟 “Thank you God for my precious family”


🌟 “Thank you God for my health”


It’s a little gratitude ritual that is almost unconscious.



Gratitude is proven to be good for your mental wellbeing.


Various studies have shown that by focussing on things that you are grateful for makes you more optimistic, and enables you to feel better about your life.


This is unsurprising - it is proven that the brain has a 4:1 bias in favour of negative thoughts and memories.


(This is probably as a result of your brain being programmed to keep you alive: it was more important to remember where the sabre-toothed tiger lived than to remember the joy you felt at your baby’s smile…)


So without actual intervention on your part, your perspective on your life will be more negative than the reality.


Focussing on the positive redresses this balance.


And focussing on the positive is even proven to be beneficial for your physical wellbeing.


In one study, participants who were focussing on what they were grateful for exercised more and had fewer visits to the doctor, in contrast with people focussing on things that irritated or upset them.


In addition, actually expressing this gratitude has been shown to have an enormous impact.


One group were asked to write and personally deliver a thank you letter to someone who had never been previously thanked for their kindness.


Those writing the letters immediately had a massive increase in their happiness levels, and this improvement lasted a whole month.


So this important end point - end of a year, end of a decade - is a great opportunity to express gratitude and ensure you have an undistorted appreciation of what has gone before.


This process will guide you to do this.



1. Recognise who has contributed to your successes


In last week’s blog I suggested you come up with ten successes you’re proud of from 2019, and ten successes from this decade.


Now, have a look at that list and think about who has helped you achieve these successes:

  • Is it your family, who have supported you?

  • Is it a particular boss or mentor at work, who has guided and encouraged you?

  • Is it a friend, who has been your shoulder to lean on?

Recognise these people and their contribution to your achievements - you may want to write them down.



2. Who or what else are you grateful for?


There will be other things, unrelated to your successes, for which you are grateful.


(For me, staying healthy is ALWAYS something I’m grateful for - even writing this today with a grotty cold…)


Recognise these people or things - again, you may want to write them down.



3. Express gratitude


Now would be a great time to express your gratitude to these people or things.


You can do this in all sorts of ways:

  • taking a moment with your eyes closed to mentally thank the person or the situation that you are grateful for

  • if it feels right to you, saying a prayer

  • or you could actually write a thank you letter or card (think of the win/win in terms of your spike in happiness levels…)


4. Focus on gratitude regularly


At this time of making resolutions, you might decide to build a habit of a gratitude practice for 2020 and beyond.


It could be as simple and informal as my sleepy thoughts.


Or you could create a gratitude journal, and count your blessings daily or weekly.


As Buddha said, “what we think, we become”.


By focussing on the positive aspects your life, you will help build and sustain a positive mindset.


And that is at the root of all success - and happiness.