We could all do a little better at appreciating the good things that come into our lives. Life being what it is, we have a tendency to overlook the good and get caught up in what could be better. Instead of acceptance, we tend to view things by what we want and think we deserve.
How to develop a grateful heart requires opening your heart to all the good and not so good that life throws your way. This can be done by daily expressions of gratitude, affirmations, meditation, journaling, and/or thanking a friend. This can lead to a happier, more rewarding life.
It’s a little sad to realize how many of us don’t fully appreciate what we do have. This might be explained by our western culture and work ethic. The American dream is to get ahead and live the good life. The problem is we’re no happier and often become slaves to consumerism.
There’s nothing wrong with working hard and maintaining a comfortable existence. The issue is when it’s still not enough. Sadly, being content and grateful for what you have is often looked down upon. We’re conditioned to always want more.
What Does a Grateful Heart Mean?
Most of us assume we should be grateful for all the good stuff we have. That’s only partially correct as that’s not the way life works. Someone with a grateful heart has learned to accept the ups and the downs. We might perceive something as undesirable, yet over time, it may very well prove to be advantageous or a lesson learned.
A grateful heart means you have an aura of “kindness” towards yourself and others. You’re filled with hope, content and appreciation. You accept both the good and the bad knowing everything will work out in the end.
I believe these folks have figured out how to develop a grateful heart so they can experience the sheer joy and pleasure of life. They appreciate the little things such as a glorious rainbow or fiery sunset. As well as the people in their lives and how much they value them.
Without a doubt, there are things we may not feel thankful for. Such as an increase in taxes or some other event we have no control over. Instead of getting upset, we need to learn to accept and move on. In some instances, these might prove to be a blessing in disguise.
These individuals aren’t gullible or settled with their lot in life. They not only embrace life; they strive to enrich their time on earth. For them, it isn’t about possessions. It’s people that matter and they’ll do almost anything for those they love.
Kindness to Others
In this dog-eat-dog world, kindness to others might seem to be a sign of weakness. Yet, a kind word or gesture can make a world of difference to someone’s day. And, it doesn’t cost you a cent! Likewise, an unkind comment serves no purpose other to hurt someone.
Back in high school, I was viewed as an outsider, called names and ostracized. Those were, probably, the most traumatic years of my life. As such, I was very leery about attending my 20th reunion. It was only at the last minute I even decided to go.
To my utter astonishment, some of my former classmates came up to me and apologized. This dramatically changed my views and restored my faith that most mean well. Sometimes it just takes them a little while.
When you treat others with respect and caring, they generally reciprocate. Being kind to others helps you feel good about yourself. It gives you those warm fuzzies. It also reveals your inner confidence and ability to make others feel better.
Count Your Blessings
Your happiness shouldn’t be dictated by material possessions; rather who/what is important to you. As an example, what we consider basic necessities took on a whole new importance during the global pandemic.
I’m not talking about the great run on toilet paper, rather not seeing family or friends for months on end. The lockdowns and the healthcare system on the verge of collapse. How our world has changed forever.
For me, I gained a whole new level of appreciation for everything. We’re quite content to be out of harms way in our humble home. We have each other, a roof over our heads, and remain healthy.
This horrific year made us realize what's really was important.
Attitude of Gratitude
You’re not likely to catch someone with a grateful heart whining or complaining about their problems. Sure, they’ll have setbacks, just like the rest of us. The difference is they accept and deal whatever life throws their way and move on.
The greatest source of frustration is usually from things beyond our control. And, there’s very little we can do about it. For instance, the markets go into a tailspin and you lose 30% of the value of your retirement savings.
Ouch, that could lead to a few sleepless nights. And, there’s absolutely nothing you can do about. Well, I suppose you could sell and lock in your losses, but dwelling on it serves no purpose. In time the markets will recover. The Great Recession of 2008 is a case in point.
Another way of looking at it, everything happens for a reason. Obviously, we’re not privy to why, yet often everything works out in the end. If you’re spiritual, you might already believe there is a greater plan and nothing occurs by chance.
A personal example, I was laid off many years ago. Needless to say, I was devastated taking it quite personally. Feeling sorry for myself, I moped around in self-pity. Unbelievably, within a week, I received a call which led to a better paying job I absolutely loved. What the heck happened?
How to Develop A Grateful Heart
Developing a grateful heart is more than learning to live in the moment. Achieving a true sense of gratitude requires practice until it feels natural. If you’re new to this, at first, it’ll feel somewhat awkward.
After a while, inattention and negativity begin to disappear as you refocus on all the good in the world. What we need to do is interrupt our old patterns of thought and stop being caught up in the busyness of the moment. We’re reprogramming our brains to look at things differently.
Old habits and ways of thinking are hard to break. If you can do something for 21 days, you’re on the right path to a new and improved you. Commit yourself to a 30-day challenge and you’ll notice dramatic changes. There’s lots of ways to get there and you’ll find some work better for you than others.
Living Each Day with A Grateful Heart
Every morning, take a couple of minutes to focus on what’s good in your life. This starts your day off in a positive manner and opens your mind to appreciate whatever might come your way.
As an example, over my morning coffee, I might notice the sun shining and think it’s going to be a beautiful day. I slept well, feel rested and relaxed. I’m thankful my husband loves me and how he fusses over preparing my coffee (and he doesn’t even drink coffee ).
While these might seem trivial, they set the stage for the day. They’re not always going to be the same; the important part is feeling thankful.
The next step is to verbalize these, either out loud, to my myself or my husband. This reinforces the message and opens my mind to positivity.
Stating an affirmation is another excellent way to become more thankful. By changing any negative thoughts into positive ones, your subconscious begins to view everything differently. An affirmation is like a statement reminding yourself to be thankful and open yourself for growth.
Some examples could include:
You might want to consider meditation. In simple terms, by concentrating on one thought, your mind slows providing a sense of calm and peace. Studies reveal it can reduce stress, anxiety, and promote better well-being.
If you’re struggling with negative thoughts, becoming more mindful will help refocus your mind. This also creates greater self awareness by getting in touch with yourself. Studies reported by Positive Psychology reveal feelings of gratitude can be enhanced with meditation.
Create a Gratitude Journal
Journaling is another way to capture your thoughts. Before going to bed, make it a habit to write down what went well that day. Try to be specific and how it made you feel. If you went grocery shopping and struck up a conversation with a total stranger, write out some of the details.
For instance, I met the nicest young mother in Costco. She had three little ones who were excited about their weekend camping trip. We talked about making “smores” which brought back memories of family camping trips.
Wouldn’t that be a nice memory to have in your head as you prepare for bed? You might also find you still feel good in the morning.
Thank a Friend
Another powerful way to reinforce feelings of gratitude is thanking a friend. Get together for lunch or a coffee and share with them how much you appreciate their friendship. Think about it, when was the last time someone did that for you?
Most people will be highly flattered by your kind words. Keep it genuine and you might be surprised how much it means to them. It’s also a great way to deepen friendships which support why you should develop a grateful heart.
Another option, send them a thank you card. Something thoughtful expressing how much you appreciate them.
Whether verbally or in writing, this helps you feel good.
Benefits of a Grateful Heart
There have been many studies documenting how practicing gratitude is beneficial. Our entire well-being is enhanced including our happiness, relationships, health, and reduced anxieties.
Positive Outlook and Happiness
When you appreciate what you have instead of what you don’t have, it changes your life. This might be the most powerful source of happiness. Your view of life becomes more optimistic, believing good things are going to happen now and in the future. This mindset promotes living in the present and experiencing all the wonders of the world around you.
According to Harvard Health:
When you have a setback, it’s easier to accept for what it is. Then, you can deal with it and move on. Maintaining a more positive attitude helps minimize mood shifts and keeps you on an even keel.
Who would have thought feeling more grateful would also strengthen our relationships? A great deal of research shows a sense of gratitude helps us initiate, maintain, and even strengthen our relationships.
Your entire demeanor changes with greater self confidence and inner peace. When you see the good in others, relationships deepen and lifetime bonds develop. Even strangers will notice and be intrigued by your sense of calmness, positivity and kindness. In How Do You Want to Be Remembered, we discuss how you conduct yourself is what others will remember you.
Improved Health and Longevity
Stress is reduced when gratitude is practiced. This can lead to lower blood pressure, better immune response and increased energy. This also promotes better sleep and more energy.
According to Positive Psychology, numerous studies correlate gratefulness with a longer healthier life. In addition, the quality of your relations is a factor. The Secret to Lasting Happiness explores this further.
Gratefulness makes you feel less anxious and overwhelmed. When you’re more relaxed, you’re more resilient and bounce back more quickly. Feeling good is probably the best medicine for reducing anxiety.
Research from Psychology Today reveals thankfulness is a strong way to reduce anxiety and negative self-talk. In fact, studies suggest repetitive negative thinking creates higher levels of anxiety that may be associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease.
If you commit the next 30 days to developing a more grateful heart, it may very well change your life. You might be wondering, is it worth the effort? My response is becoming happier and focusing on the positives might be the best investment of your time you’ve ever made.
Not only can it reduce anxiety, your relationships get better, health improves, and setbacks are easier to manage. All those benefits simply by embracing gratitude into your every day life.