With the hustle and bustle of everyday life, it's easy to forget about what and who you're grateful for.
I've been speaking and writing about gratitude for many years, and I'm still amazed at how challenging it can be to focus on what I'm grateful for at times (especially when I'm feeling sorry for myself, complaining or focused on what I think I should get, instead of all that I already have). I'm also blown away by how powerful and transformative gratitude is when we choose to pay attention to it, experience it and express it.
I recently met a man who had been in prison for almost 30 years. When he was asked what he appreciated most about being out of jail, he said, "Seeing the stars, listening to children laugh and hearing dogs bark." Wow—think of all the simple things we take for granted that we could choose to be grateful for each day, instead of focusing our attention on what we don't have, what we want or what we think we deserve (but haven't been given yet).
What are you grateful for? What do you appreciate about the things you already have in your life? What do you love most about the people around you? How often do you ask yourself and others these powerful questions? Sadly, many of us don't take the time to ask or answer these types of questions on a regular basis, especially in the midst of these difficult times and the stress and expectation of the holidays.
I hope you and your family have been and will be spending time focused on what you're grateful for during this time of year. However, focusing on gratitude is something that we can do all the time, not just on special occasions or during the holiday season.
There are many reasons (i.e., excuses) we have for not focusing on what we're grateful for:
We're too busy and stressed out
We're waiting for things to work out perfectly (which they almost never do)
We don't want to brag (especially now, when lots of people are going through tough times)
We focus on what needs improvement and the many things we still have to get done
We focus on all the bad stuff in our lives, about others and in the world
We pay a lot of attention to what we don't have, what we want and what we think we should get
While all of these reasons make sense and are understandable, they simply and sadly get in our way of tapping into one of the most powerful emotions and states of beings we have access to: the power of gratitude.
According to Jack Canfield, author of The Success Principles and co-author of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series, "Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life."
Gratitude not only makes us feel good, it's also one of the greatest attractors of abundance, love, peace, success, health, connection and more. The more we focus on what we already have, the wonderful aspects of our lives and what we appreciate, the more we end up having to be grateful for.
Stop for a moment and think about some of the things that you're grateful for in your own life. Make a list either in your head or on paper. We each have so much to appreciate. When we take the time to acknowledge our many blessings, especially at this time of year, we utilize the power of gratitude in a way that benefits us and those around us in a profound way.
Simple Ways to Practice Gratitude Every Day
We can expand our capacity for gratitude by creating simple and genuine practices. It doesn't really matter what we do or how we do it, just that we come up with easy and meaningful ways to focus on what we're grateful for during the holidays and beyond. Below is a short list of some different possible gratitude practices. Pick one, use many or make up your own practice:
Write cards or e-mails expressing your gratitude for others: genuine, specific and personal
Meditate/pray and focus on what you're grateful for
Have everyone at the dinner table share something they're grateful before you eat (or while you're in the car or other times you're together with your family)
Ask people what they're grateful for (and/or ask this question as part of your outgoing voice mail message)
Use a gratitude journal and write in it regularly
While so many of us understand and know about the power of gratitude, it's the practice and expression of it that really has an impact. During this holiday season—in the midst of the stress and activities this time of year brings—if we can take the time to think about, feel and express our gratitude and appreciation for life, others and ourselves, we can literally transform our experience of the holidays, as well as of our lives and relationships, in a beautiful way.
Mike Robbins is a best-selling author, sought-after motivational keynote speaker and personal growth expert who works with people and groups of all kinds. Robbins is the author of the best-selling books Focus on the Good Stuff and Be Yourself: Everyone Else Is Already Taken. He and his work have been featured on ABC News, in Forbes, Ladies Home Journal, Self and many others.