“Count your blessings.” We’ve all heard it, but what does that mean exactly? Science shows counting our blessings is afterall the secret to our happiness. It is not acquiring or achieving more in the future but gratitude for the present in our lives that brings consistent, sustainable, and lasting joy. Gratitude does not mean accepting and not changing any undesirable aspect of our current condition, but it is a neutralizer of emotions that shifts our thinking and creates a more positive experience of the world for us.
The human experience consists of experiencing many different emotions, both positive and negative. Research shows that by practicing gratitude in bringing to our attention one thing we are grateful for during a moment of distress, however big or small, we are able to neutralize negative emotions and our emotional state transforms.
Gratitude is not only a concept or an emotion experienced, however. For gratitude to take its effect, it has to become a habit, a practice that we exercise until it becomes natural and integral to our daily lives. This can be done by either keeping a gratitude journal that keeps entries of all the people/circumstances/things we are grateful for. On one day, you might be grateful for your mom, while on another day, you might find yourself grateful for water or lotion or good quality and inexpensive mascara.
There is never a wrong answer for what to be grateful for. The point is to find one thing that has made your life fuller or easier and meditate on it until you feel the positive and radiant emotion of gratitude flowing through you. If keeping a journal sounds like a tedious and demanding process, then setting a daily reminder on your phone of one thing you are grateful for or adding a post-it to your work desk or fridge reminding you to be grateful for something can be a constant reminder.
It is important to take small, baby steps as you begin on this journey towards cultivating an attitude of gratitude. Therefore, starting simple by incorporating a 5 minute gratitude journaling or writing out one sentence or a text to someone you are grateful for might help you start. Gratitude’s power takes time to appear. So as you work towards making that a habit, keep you eyes forward. Finally, inviting a friend or a family member to join you might significantly help in staying committed and extending the positive results of this journey beyond yourself.
For more information on the science behind gratitude, check out the findings from studies in this article by the Greater Good Science Center.