“Thank you.” Such a simple phrase. Used so many, yet thought about so few times. When did you last think “Wow, I am truly grateful for this!”? Instead of constantly striving for more (which is not a bad thing and I encourage you to do so!), wouldn’t it be nice sometimes to be able to take a deep breath, pause for a second and be grateful for what you have? Truly being grateful gives you a feeling which is hard to match, yet developing a grateful mindset is comparably easy. If you are looking for something that has a lot of benefits but requires only as much as two minutes per day, read on.
What exactly is being grateful?
Being grateful for what you have is composed of two separate actions. In order to be grateful, you have to first recognize what you can be grateful for and then you have to appreciate it. And you have to do so in a very conscious way. What most people do when something good happens to them is they spend merely a split-second thinking about it before they get distracted by the next thing that comes up in their busy life. They might notice that the sun is shining or that they wake up with a functioning and fit body every morning, but they do not take the time to consciously recognize and appreciate it.
In order to really be grateful for something, you have to actively enjoy and appreciate the moment or thing you are grateful for. An easy way to learn to do so is to focus on what you are grateful for and say to yourself, but out loud: “I am grateful for [moment/thing/other stuff].”
Being grateful is not being happy all the time or feeling positive about everything — but to appreciate the positive in the situations you find yourself in.
Since this sounds all fancy and awwwy-wowy, I will give you two examples from my own life:
This morning I managed to somehow break a shelf out of the door of my fridge — knocking down all the glasses and sauce containers which were in it. Now, if this had happened at an earlier point in my life, I would have probably cursed out the fridge, the shelf, the engineer who designed it, the neighbor and the neighbor’s cat, all in multiple languages. (Trust me, I am a pro when it comes to swearing.) This would have left me angry and grumpy for a while. Instead, my first thought was not a four letter curse word, but I noticed that none of the glasses broke. I almost automatically thought “Wow, I am really grateful that none of the glasses shattered.” Guess how this had me feeling afterwards.
Example number two. A couple weeks ago I met a girl I really hit it off with in the beginning. We exchanged numbers and I texted her afterwards. Long story short, I got rejected in a way which showed me that she was not someone I wanted to have in my life. (Don’t get me wrong, no hard feelings here. I have gotten rejected so many times that I literally do not give a crap for more than a second or two, it is all part of the game. I am good friends with some of the girls who rejected me. Some people just do it in a way that makes you shake your head.) Again, my first thought was not a four letter word, but that I was grateful for her having unveiled that aspect of her personality before I got more involved.
So, in both examples something which most people would consider as negative happened to me. In both examples I was still upset that it happened. However, I managed to focus on the positive aspects — the things I could be grateful for. By doing so, I was able to look at the whole situation in a completely different, much more positive light. Now think of how many upsetting or negative situations you find yourself in day to day and what huge impact being grateful could have for you.
Side note: As long as you have emotions, you will get upset about upsetting things. Even if it is just a tiny little bit. It is part of the feedback mechanism of the brain which tells you if a situation is good or bad for you. If you do not feel anything at all when something negative happens, you are either depressed, otherwise emotionally damaged or a psychopath. So be grateful for feeling upset.
Why should you be grateful?
Being grateful is one of the skills or elements of your mindset that are absolutely crucial to be able to live your best life. There are numerous long- and short-term benefits associated with it.
Short-term benefits of being grateful
Actively being grateful for something lets you appreciate things more — you get more “happiness” out of whatever it is you are grateful for, since the moment does not fly by more or less unnoticed. The good emotions you feel are intensified and this high often keeps you going for quite some time. Ever had a defining moment in which you thought “today is a good day”? Well, imagine having many of these every day — you’d be living a pretty awesome life.
Long-term benefits of being grateful
While the short-term benefits are rather obvious, the long-term ones require some more thought but are ultimately where the money is.
Whatever you do in life — whether it’s your job, relationships or some leisure activity — the more of it you do and the longer you keep working on it, the better you will get. Being grateful is no exception, which is where its beauty lies.
Over time, you will become more receptive to good things. It will become a lot easier for you to notice things you can be grateful for and therefore also to express your gratitude about them. You train your brain to be on the lookout for positive things and appreciate them. You develop a habit of being grateful and this habit in turn shapes your identity. You become a more grateful person, which is one of the cornerstones of living your best life.
Over time, you learn to appreciate more things and therefore learn to feel much better and be more content with what you have, increasing your overall satisfaction with your life.
Ultimately you will get to a point where you will be able to see something positive in everything. This will not eliminate the negative things that happen to you by any means, but they become a lot easier to deal with.
What to be grateful for
So by now you might be pretty hyped about being grateful and all that stuff, but there is still one question which needs to be answered: “What should I be grateful for?” Here’s the cool thing about this: Whatever you feel like. Honestly, whatever you feel like is worth being grateful for. These things might be hard to find in the beginning since your brain is not yet trained to identify them. So I will give you some help by coming up with two categories: The obvious and the not so obvious.
It is easy to identify the obvious things, like finding money on the street, the sun shining or your mum calling and telling you that she loves you. Therefore these are a great place to start and practice appreciating things. These obvious things are, as the name says, very easy to notice — all that is left to do for you is to appreciate them and consciously being grateful.
Now let’s get to the not so obvious things. Things like my two examples above. They are harder to find, harder to see, harder to grasp. You need to actively look and try to find them. Do not give up easily, it can be very hard in the beginning. But over time, if you start with the obvious, you will get an eye for seeing the non-obvious. And trust me, it is so much more rewarding when you find yourself in a situation which looks like hell at first but then manage to notice the positive aspects and view it in a totally different light.
So, to sum this part up: Start with the obvious and keep at it. Over time you will develop a more grateful mindset and it will become a lot easier for you to see positive aspects in everything if you are actively on the lookout. Once you have reached this stage, you will really start feeling the benefits of being a more grateful person. You will start to live your best life.
How to implement this into your everyday life
I am a big fan of habits and routines. If applied correctly, they enable you to do what is important to you without having to cook up much willpower and discipline. They work against you forgetting to do the things you should or want to do. Being grateful is no exception. So let’s come up with a concept that enables us to be grateful every day.
To really change you mindset and be able to be grateful during your everyday life, you need to practice daily. Therefore I suggest implementing a habit of being grateful into either your morning and/or evening routine. Take for example two minutes every morning and evening and come up with three things you are grateful for today. Say them out loud. “I am grateful for the nice weather. I am grateful for being able to sleep in and feel well-rested since it is a weekend. I am grateful for being able to buy the food I like to eat. I am grateful for having friends I can talk to about my problems.” Whoops, that was four things. Once you start coming up with these, it becomes easy to keep the ball rolling. When you do this, really try to come up with new things every day (the occasional repetition won’t hurt, if it is something you truly feel grateful for every day, go for it!) This way you train your brain to always look out for new things, which will spill over into your everyday life. Before long, you will subconsciously identify these things during the day. Your identity will change, you will become a more grateful person. You will be closer to living your best life.
When the hard times come
As Mike Tyson once said “Everybody has plans until they get hit.” Being grateful is — again — no exception. It is easy to be all grateful and in a good mood and stuff if you wake up with the sun shining, a beautiful blonde in underwear making you coffee and giving you a backrub while you’re checking the New York Stock Exchange and notice that you made $3000 tonight while sleeping.
But there might be days when you come home from a 14-hour workday only to discover that your car has been keyed and your girlfriend left you. Then you hit your pinky and drop your groceries on the way into your apartment. Or any other metaphorical equivalent of stepping in a steaming pile of dog shit. Well, that’s when it’s kind of hard to sit down and say “I am grateful for…”
However, the hard times are when you need this attitude and mindset the most. The hard times are when you need every little bit of genuine positivity you can get your hands on. So how to get through?
Do your homework
In order to be prepared for a competition, you train. In order to be prepared for an exam, you study. In order to be prepared for a job interview, you do whatever you need to do to prepare. So in order to be prepared for the hard times, you need to do your homework as well. Make use of the easy times, when life is good. Stick to your routines, train your brain and develop a grateful mindset. A lot of people make the mistake of trying to fix things only once they are broken. They only turn their attention to them when it is too late. Do not make this mistake. Prepare and train while you still can and it will be so much easier for you once the hard times come.
You are 100% responsible
The hard times will come. Life will hit you. The question is not if it will happen, but when. And that is cool, life just works this way. Anybody who tells you that you can be happy forever with nothing bad ever happening and you being totally immune to all the chaos the universe causes is a liar.
But here is the important thing, a tiny little distinction with tremendous weight. Thousands of things will happen to you during your life which are not your fault. The rain that catches you by surprise. The drunk driver who hits you because he ran a red light. The thief who stole your bike even though you locked it. You can’t really do much to prevent them. They are, as I said, not your fault. But you are 100% responsible how you react to them. Sure, you can cry and complain about how everything is unfair and all these bad things just randomly happen to you. Or you can sit down, take a deep breath and focus on the positive aspects and how you can react to all this in order to be able to go on and make the most out of it.
Both approaches will change nothing about the past. What has happened, has happened. But you can either mourn or see the positive.
Accept that bad things happen and sometimes life just goes downhill. Accept that it is not always your fault and you cannot change things that happened in the past. But you can change how you react to them and therefore, you can change the present and the future. That is what you are responsible for.
Being grateful is not about always being happy and jolly. But it is about being able to see the positive — however small it may be — and appreciating it.
Try it yourself
Two minutes. That is all it takes for starters. Take two minutes out of your day, preferably in the morning or the evening. Make them your gratitude minutes, every day. Develop a routine of spending just two minutes per day to come up with three unique things you are grateful for and I promise you will be amazed by the results in a couple weeks. If they are even remotely close to the results I got from this, you will be in a better mood, you will be a more grateful person and you will be able to smile a lot more during hard times since you are able to see the positive in them. You will automatically appreciate things so much more while they are happening.
Honestly, the world is such a wonderful place and it is a shame that most of us humans are so occupied with our problems and issues that we do not take the time to appreciate all the wonders and greatness our life has to offer.
Close your eyes, take a deep breath, feel the air and be grateful that you have the opportunity to enjoy this miraculous thing we call life.
Thank you for reading this piece.