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  • rebecca lian

Choosing Gratitude

First of all, I need you to know that I’m writing this as a reminder to myself as well. While I believe I have a grateful heart, that’s not to say I practice gratitude every day or that I don’t feel frustrated about the unknown meanings of certain events. As living beings, we have the ability to feel, and that is so special – even if those feelings are painful at times. I think that’s the cool thing about gratitude. For instance, we wouldn’t appreciate happiness as much if we didn’t know sadness, and sometimes we don’t value what we have until it’s gone. With that being said, let’s get into it!

Why should we practice gratitude?

There are actually a ton of benefits, but these four really speak to me:

Create Abundance. Practicing gratitude involves focusing on what’s there rather than what’s not. By doing that, we will realize how abundant our life is.

Increase Empathy. If you recognize how grateful you are for something, then you can feel for someone who has lost that or is struggling with it – and they may feel better knowing you understand its value.

Positive Shift In Mindset. Focusing on what’s there and making a conscious effort to be appreciative shifts our whole perspective. Hence that phrase, “gratitude is the best attitude.”

Reduce Anxiety. This is science! I won’t get into the details, but when you practice gratitude, you’re taking the time to recognize and appreciate things that make you feel good. In turn, your brain releases those great chemicals like dopamine and serotonin.

What exactly is gratitude?

I think there are many different ways to explain gratitude, but to me, simply put, it’s the practice of appreciation.

Appreciation of what you have; what gives you joy, strength, and peace.

Appreciation of qualities about yourself and your abilities.

Appreciation of friends and family who act as your support system, and appreciation of strangers who show you random acts of kindness.

Appreciation of everyday moments, and appreciation of milestone moments.

How do we practice gratitude?

I believe it really comes down to three things: self-awareness, being present, and reflecting.

Self-Awareness. We have to be aware of how things make us feel, and keep mental tabs of everything that makes us feel good and consider why. For example, one of my favorite things to do is go on walks through the park by myself or with my dog, Frankie. It brings me so much peace and happiness. I also notice a spike in joy whenever I have positive interactions with strangers as simple as smiling or wave back at me.

Be Present. This sort of goes hand in hand with self-awareness. We need to be present and focus on what’s right in front of us. There's a quote from Brené Brown that reads, "I don’t have to chase extraordinary moments to find happiness – it’s right in front of me if I’m paying attention and practicing gratitude." Back to my previous examples, that joy I experience at the park or through friendly interactions wouldn't be possible if I were looking down at my phone or mentally disengaged.

Reflect. This is more on an "as-needed" basis – maybe weekly, monthly, etc. If you’re being present and self-aware, you probably don't need to reflect everyday. Reflecting is a great tool for healing as well. I’m not saying we have to look for the good while really painful moments are happening. Absolutely not. We need to recognize those moments and allow ourselves to feel whatever we’re feeling – and whenever we’re ready, we can reflect and find meaning in those painful events, and appreciate the strength and resilience we’ve gained from them.

I’ll close with this:

Life happens no matter what. We can’t push pause, fast forward, or rewind. Some things are simply out of our control. Once we accept that, we see what we do have control over: we choose what we give meaning to, and more importantly, we choose what that meaning is.

So let’s choose gratitude. Let’s choose to focus on what we have instead of what we lack. Let’s appreciate everyday moments just as much as once-in-a-lifetime moments – because you never know when an everyday moment will happen for the last time. Let’s stay in the present and appreciate the phase of life we’re currently in.

It’s possible to be grateful for what you have and still strive for more. It’s possible to love who you are and still want to be better.

I truly appreciate you taking time out of your day to be here. From the bottom of my heart, thank you so much for reading this!


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