Principles of Purpose:  Be Grateful

Tentatively titled Principles of Purpose: A Guide To Living Wisely, is an ongoing draft of a concept I might one day publish a book on. It’s essentially 30 Principles that I think are essential to living life wisely. Some are principles that I wished I had learned much earlier in life. Many are principles that I only learned in recovery in 2016-2017. Still other principles were ones I had applied off and on during my 56 years.

PrefaceIntroductionTrusting Your GutUse Good Judgement
ListenRegulate EmotionsSet BoundariesBe Mindful
Practice ModerationManage ExpectationsResolve ConflictPlan Ahead
Have PatienceBe YourselfPractice AcceptanceBe Grateful
Manage Money

“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

Melody Beattie

On the Skillsyouneed website is an excellent definition of gratitude: “Gratitude is a warm feeling of thankfulness towards the world, or towards specific individuals. The person who feels gratitude is thankful for what they have, and does not constantly seek more.

Practice Gratitude
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But gratitude is much more than that. To practice gratitude is to empower yourself to overcome negative and unpleasant situations in life. Having an attitude of gratitude stems the tide of negative reactions to situations out of your control.

By practicing gratitude we can better assimilate ourselves to living in the now and what we have presently. It eliminates negative emotion by negation. It is through gratitude where we can gain a sense of peace and tranquility in our everyday lives.

On a practical level, your gratitude practice can consist of many things, from writing a handwritten ‘thank you’-letter, to creating an appreciation calendar, saying “I’m grateful” for everything you touch on a given day, calling your parents or children and expressing your appreciation, sharing a positive post of gratitude on social media, or giving your time or money to a cause or charity.

The Benefits of Gratitude

Increasing your gratitude is useful because:

  • it’s an instant mood booster and feels great in the moment
  • you’re likely to feel closer to friends and family
  • you’re likely to enjoy your life more
  • it’s good for your physical health
  • it’s easier to cope with tough times
  • good things in life don’t stick in our heads as easily as bad events.

This last point is really important. We tend to remember when bad things happen, and the time we spend thinking about them makes us unhappy. But, if we make an effort to increase how often we experience gratitude, it can balance out some of the negative stuff.

That doesn’t mean that you should ignore/forget your problems, or that the things wrong with your life are unimportant. It just means that good memories will also stick in your mind, so you get to enjoy them for longer.

How To Practice Gratitude

Experiencing more gratitude is easy and doesn’t take much time. Try these ideas and see what works best for you:

  • Keep a gratitude journal.  Take five minutes each day or once a week to think of and write down three things that have happened to you since the previous day or week that you’re glad you experienced.
  • Take pictures.  Set yourself a mission to photograph little things in your everyday life that make you smile.
  • Tell someone you’re grateful to have them in your life.  Whether it’s someone you look up to, or someone who just makes you happy, take the time to tell them you’re glad they’re around.

You don’t have to think up a whole bunch of really significant things in order to be grateful. You can be grateful for the smallest things, such as the sunshine, your morning coffee, or the fact that you made it to your train on time.

Gratitude For Life

The important thing is to establish the daily habit of paying attention to gratitude-inspiring events. The place to start is with a reality check because we all begin life dependent on others, and most of us will end life dependent on others.

practicing gratitude

If we are lucky, in between, we have roughly 60 years or so of unacknowledged dependency. The human condition is such that, throughout life, not just at the beginning and end, we are profoundly dependent on other people.

Gratitude takes us outside ourselves where we see ourselves as part of a larger, intricate network of sustaining relationships that are mutually reciprocal. Gratitude is the truest approach to life. We did not create or fashion ourselves. We did not birth ourselves. Life is about giving, receiving, and repaying.

We are receptive beings, dependent on the help of others, on their gifts and their kindness. As such, we are called to gratitude. If we choose to ignore this basic truth, we steer ourselves off course. Just knowing this is usually enough to inspire a more grateful outlook on life.

In short, developing and maintaining gratitude practices radically transforms your outlook and experience of life. Practice gratitude on a regular basis, and start reaping these benefits for yourself! 

Click to download Gratitude Journal

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