Cultivating The Habit of Being Grateful

“Cultivate the habit of being grateful.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

Imagine going for a walk in the woods on a sunny winter afternoon. It starts off as a pleasant walk, the sun has warmed the air enough so you left your hat, scarf, and gloves at home. You know the trail well and you plan on turning around after a mile or so. You are almost there, but then clouds appear and quickly blanket the sky. The sun’s warmth dissipates and cold rain starts to fall. You know this isn’t a good thing so you head back. The clouds thicken even more, it becomes extremely dark, the rain turns to freezing rain, and it’s hard to see on the trail. You are cold and shivering, and all you want to do is get back home. On the way back you slip a few times almost twisting an ankle, your limbs are starting to get numb from the cold, you really question what might happen to you if you don’t make it back. Eventually, you make it back home. How do you feel? I imagine most of us would feel a deep sense of relief and gratitude that we are safe. We would be thankful to be back home where it’s dry and warm, and we wouldn’t care at that point whether our house was big enough, if we had a nice enough car, or if we had the latest tech gadgets. At that point, all we would want is for our basic needs to be met. The gratitude we feel when we don’t have our basic needs met, to when we get our basic needs met is an amazing feeling. We feel grateful for what we have and we don’t complain about wanting more. Why is it so hard to feel that way every day? Because our perspective is so focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. There’s a reason why research has shown that keeping a gratitude journal has so many health benefits. Keeping a gratitude journal reminds us each day of the things we already have, we focus on the positives, it allows us to be more empathic to those who have less, and when we feel thankful we are more likely to return the appreciation to others. Feeling grateful feels really good, and you can feel good every day if you make gratitude a habit.