If you are reading this piece, chances are good that you are filthy rich.
Let me describe your day.
- You woke to an alarm and rolled out of a comfortable bed.
- You showered, brushed your teeth and ate breakfast.
- You got into a car equipped with a radio and air conditioning.
- You arrived at an office with electricity, a desk and snacks.
- You are now reading this message on a laptop, tablet or smart phone.
- You will eat dinner (maybe with friends at a restaurant) and will certainly watch TV before you go to bed.
- 4 billion people live on less than $1.25 per day.
- 7 billion people lack access to clean water.
- 925 million people don’t get enough to eat each day.
- 22,000 children die because of malnutrition every day.
Why is Gratitude so Difficult?
At the core, gratitude is your perspective on life. It shapes how you interpret every piece of information that you absorb on a daily basis. A grateful person tends to view this information in a positive light while the pessimist always find something wrong. The glass truly is half empty or half full.
The frustrating part of our culture is that the majority of people can’t figure out how to turn the lemons into lemonade.
In his book, Buyology, marketing guru Martin Lindstrom points out that the majority of advertising in the world today is focused on the emotion of fear. He argues that this type of “fear-based” advertising plays “less on our generalized anxieties and more on our insecurities about ourselves”.
Why do advertisers focus on our insecurities to sell their products? One reason - it works.
Most Americans get their sense of self worth from their possessions and status in comparison to their peers. We continue to buy when we feel that our lives are lacking something. Advertisers help us to recognize this need for more and they have just the product/service to fill the void.
The only way to resist the urge to continually fill your life with stuff you don’t need is to learn to be grateful for what you already have.
I believe that practicing gratitude is one of the most important habits that any professional can develop because it helps us to keep everything in perspective.
Benefits of Gratitude
Don’t just take my word for it. There’s many well researched benefits from living gratefully:
- Physical Health – In their groundbreaking book called “The Psychology of Gratitude”, professors Robert Emmons and Michael McCullough point out that people who practiced gratitude “exercised more regularly and reported fewer physical symptoms of illness”.
- Psychological Health – Robert Emmons, the world’s leading scientist on gratitude argues that counting your blessings can help you enjoy “high levels of positive emotions”. These include being “more alert, alive and awake, enjoy more joy and pleasure and feel more optimism and happiness”. In addition, his research indicates a clear connection between cultivating gratitude and stress relief.
- Relationships - In a recent study, Amie Gordon makes a compelling case for each of us to “stop taking our partner for granted and start being grateful”. She illustrates that once two people make a commitment towards gratitude, an interesting cycle begins with each person becoming more interested in building the relationship. They actually begin working on the relationship which leads to the other partner reciprocating in kind.
Unfortunately, just knowing that this is the case, doesn’t automatically mean that your life will get better. You’ve actually got to do something about it.
In an effort to help you generate a little momentum, here are a few simple strategies to help make gratitude part of your everyday life.
- Gratitude Journal - Keep a journal documenting everything in life for which you are grateful. Research shows that simply identifying five items per week makes a big difference. I suggest you try and pick something unique and specific each day. For example, today, I was especially grateful for my dad who is helping my mom through a challenging illness.
- Thank You Note – Take out a piece of paper and actually write someone a note thanking them specifically for something valuable they’ve added to your life. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel every time you practice this simple exercise. More importantly the recipient will never forget this act of kindness.
- Give Generously - Finally, you need to learn to be a good steward of your resources. By that I mean, you need to give a portion (consider a tithe) of your time and money away to others who are less fortunate. The minute you begin to focus your attention on the needs of others, you can’t help but feel grateful for all your blessings.
Start small with just one of these tactics and I guarantee you’ll notice healthier outlook before too long.