In this hectic, get-here go-there world a person can quickly get a jaded view of life and lose their sense of humour. Stop lights, traffic, people honking, hustle, bustle, kids, dinner, work, chores – it’s just so easy to rip through life focused on the next thing and the next thing and not see the big picture.
My wife and I have a nice property that backs on to a forested area. Birds fly in and out of the trees, rabbits, squirrels and chipmunks race around the property. It’s our little piece of heaven, our escape from the hectic world around us. A few years back my three sons were at our home one evening and the four of us were standing on our back deck visiting. Suddenly my ears picked up the sounds of frogs croaking in the distance. One of my sons was telling a story and I stopped him and said to the boys “do you hear that?” The boys interest peaked a bit and they all stopped to listen. After a few seconds I could tell by their puzzled faces that not one of them heard the frogs. I said “listen – they’re there!” Finally after a few minutes one of my sons said “you mean the frogs old man?” I said “Yah – the frogs!”
That moment on my deck made me realize that many of us are becoming immune to the beauty of the world around us. We are so busy fighting traffic, working and frustrated with life’s issues that the beauty of nature, the sweet moments of life are often overshadowed by the all the dark things that exist in our world. For many of us the negativity starts as soon as we read the morning newspaper or watch the morning news on television. Our world seems intent on keeping us overly busy and inundated with the next distressing story. Many of us we never get a chance to feel blessed, excited or amazed about the life we live, we spend most of our waking moments just trying to slug through life!
Strangely enough I think people are starting to realize the importance of being more grateful. There seems to be a trend pushing people to rediscover the good in the world and the good in their lives. People are pursing gratitude! In fact, gratefulness has become an industry. There are websites that specialize in gratitude, there are even Gratitude Coaches who help individuals explore the good things in their lives. The gratitude explosion is happening because people are trying hard to find a bigger purpose in their lives, they are trying to connect with nature, with good. People are tired of evil, of being afraid and we are tired of negative energy!
So how does one turn off all of the negative noise in their life and find gratitude? Well…it has to be an intentional effort that we practice daily. Once you commit to practicing daily you soon realize that once you feel gratitude you feel a sense of greatness – not the greatness that causes people to have inflated egos but rather a greatness that gives you a sense of wholeness or fullness. It’s a feeling of appreciation for what we have rather than disappointment in what we don’t have. The feeling of appreciation allows you to feel energized and excited by life. It’s truly an amazing way to live life!
So how can we cultivate gratitude in our lives? Here are four simple steps to get you started:
- Wake up amazed! The average person sleeps about eight hours a night, which is a third of the total hours in a day. Every night we go to bed, we have a one in three chance of not waking up the next morning. So the fact that we woke up this morning is really amazing in itself! Not only that, it’s amazing that when we woke up the majority of us knew who we were, if we had a loved one sleeping beside us we knew who they were. We recall what happened yesterday. We know what we are supposed to do today. It’s a miracle! Be amazed! Start your day amazed and you will see the world differently – your gratitude metre will rise.
- Try to avoid the news of the day first thing – it’s just going to bring you down. A lot of research has gone into developing the news stories that you read and watch in the morning. The job of newspapers and tv stations is to get you to engage with their media outlet and research shows that most of us need to be wowed and shocked to peak our interest. That’s why the majority of news outlets focus on the shocking, heart tug stories of the day, then throw in the happy-go-lucky story of the cat that got saved by the firemen to give you a tidbit of good news to send you on your way. So don’t turn that television on! Don’t read that newspaper! Have your coffee on your deck and listen to the birds, hear the frogs, sit in the sun or enjoy the spring rain, watch the clouds float by, enjoy a great breakfast, and get ready for an amazing day!
- Start a gratitude basket for your family. Have a basket strategically located in your home and have some slips of paper and a pen. Get your family members trained to jot down the good moments of the week and every so often during the week have a dinner gratitude party where a few gratitude moments are read out and the family shares those special moments with one another.
- Before you fall asleep at night recall three great moments that happened that day. Studies show people who go to sleep happy and at peace with their day – sleep better and wake up more rested. In every situation there is a reason to be grateful. Even in difficult situations there is a silver lining. So find those moments in your day and be grateful for them and fall asleep with a peaceful mind and heart and get ready for a gratitude-filled day tomorrow.
Gratitude intentionality is the key to growing a life of happiness. I don’t think any single person lives their life wanting to be sad, angry and depressed. So if you are struggling to find the joy in your life, I encourage you to pursue a life of gratitude and in doing so you’ll find a happier life.
I’d love to hear some ways in which you focus on being grateful in your lives. Drop us a note and let us know some of your intentional gratitude strategies so we can share them.
Now get out there and listen to those frogs!
All the best.