“Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all others.” ~Cicero
Being grateful is both a state of mind and perspective. One person’s idea of expressing gratitude may completely contradict another. Most of us are not born eternal optimists, but being positive and grateful is something that can be imbibed even if a tad forcibly; such as by trying to tweak our sense of humor, the way we react to a given situation, by being more pleasant and believing others too have a mind, by smiling each time somebody says ‘thank you’, and by understanding that every person is on their own journey and accepting that it’s not your position to judge them.
Here are 15 steps to help you become a more positive person and grateful for all that you have in your life.
Appreciate what you have and value it. Try counting your positives and be grateful for all the good things and people in your life. If you’re concerned about wealth and success, know that these can be whatever you like. Abundance comes in many forms. If you’re healthy, think about how many people are counting their last breath. If you don’t have as much money as you would like, think about the millions of parents in the world that cannot even feed their families. Perhaps redefining what wealth and abundance are may go a long way.
2. Stop Labeling
Stop labeling those things, people or events that you don’t understand as being weird or different and try opening your mind, little by little. Minds only work when open. Don’t allow your limiting beliefs to keep you stuck in the wrong place. Spread your wings and fly! Once you realize all is possible, the doors of limitation that were closed in your mind will open be connected to all those aspects of consciousness.
Treat failure as an opportunity to learn a new and better lesson from life, and that’s the trick to manufacture optimism in life. Never give up trying because that’s an indication that something better is in store. Once you start harbouring an optimistic attitude towards life, success will automatically follow. Give up your constant need to complain and criticize about those things — people, situations, events that make you unhappy, sad and depressed. Nobody can make you unhappy; no situation can make you sad or miserable unless you allow it to. When you criticize, you are passing self-judgement for something lacking in your life that you refuse to let go of. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking. For every opportunity you feel the inclination to criticize, try to think about how that specific situation is serving or benefiting others.
4. Release The Past
The past you are now longing for — the past that you are now dreaming about — was ignored by you when it was present. Stop deluding yourself. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now. Work on this by practicing with simple tasks every day. We often assume the past looked so much better than the present and the future looks so frightening, but you have to take into consideration the fact that the present moment is all you have and all you will ever have. Be present in everything you do and enjoy life. After all life is a journey not a destination. Have a clear vision for the future, prepare yourself, but always be present in the now.
5. Avoid Comparison
Nothing is as awful as comparing yourself to someone else. If you think you’re better that the other person, you’re letting yourself regale in an unhealthy sense of superiority. If you demean yourself in front of others, it means all your hard work and progress has been in vain. While social comparisons are unhealthy, self-improvement is effective.
There’s a scientific reason behind every act of kindness that you do; helping someone selflessly releases serotonin in your brain (serotonin is the hormone that controls your mood) and hence makes you feel good about yourself almost instantly. Try doing one act of kindness every day to flush out the toxins of depression from your system. Thank god, thank your parents, friends, and thank yourself for all the hard work you did, for everything you achieved. Saying thank you frequently makes you humble, and a humble person is seldom cynical.
7. Stop Using Excuses
Send them packing and tell them they’re fired. You no longer need them. A lot of times we limit ourselves because of the many excuses we use. Instead of growing and working on improving ourselves and our lives, we get stuck, lying to ourselves, using all kind of excuses — excuses that most of the time are not even real. We sabotage ourselves beyond belief. If you find yourself making excuses, ask yourself why you are creating the excuse in the first place?
8. Nurture Relationships
One way to becoming positive is to seek positive company, as both positivity and negativity are infectious. If the people you spend most of your time with are grumpy or have a pessimistic standpoint, you’ll find yourself inadvertently mirroring the same emotions with others. In order to inculcate positivity it is imperative that your friend circle is a positive, energetic, and a happy bunch. You’ll find yourself carrying the same positivity everywhere you go. Relationships keep us alive and kicking. In fact, according to research studies, loneliness doubles people’s mortality rates. A circle of good friends, loving family members and cheerful colleagues are a reminder that you have people who care about you. There’s nothing like having someone who you can share your experiences with. So nurture these relationships and say goodbye to a lonesome existence. You are never alone and there are always people around you that need your energy whether you know it or not.
Hatred is a negative feeling and harbouring it will have nothing but negative effects on your well-being. Stop thinking about the hateful emotion/person and let it go. Forgive if needed, take things lightly and let it not affect your system. There are so many of us who can’t stand the idea of being wrong — wanting to always be right — even at the risk of ending great relationships or causing a great deal of stress and pain, for us and for others. We love to right-fight. It’s just not worth it because the state of being right is all subjective with so many layers and perspectives of truth. Accept that you have a different perspective than others and allow them to “be right” if this helps you move relationships in a positive direction. Would you rather be kind or be right? Accept responsibility for yourself, your life and your actions. You are response-able. You are an adult. You are account-able, meaning, with every action you take, you account for it. You chose to do it; you must accept the consequences of it and that you did it all for a reason… to learn. If you continue to feel you can’t for forgive or feel guilty for your actions, you stop learning.
10. Avoid Impressing Others
Success may have nothing to do with how much money you have or how many cars you have, but how you choose to live a life of abundance. Abundance comes in many forms, many of which have nothing to do with material things. The moment you stop trying so hard to be something that you’re not, the moment you take off all your masks, the moment you accept and embrace the real you, you will find people will be drawn to you, effortlessly. Let go of any expectations of yourself that will limit your growth. If you hold high expectations for how others should behave, you will often be disappointed if they do not represent themselves in the manner you expected. It is only your expectations of people that cause you to judge them, which ultimately is a judgement of yourself. Far too many people are living a life that is not theirs to live. They live their lives according to what others think is best for them, they live their lives according to what their parents think is best for them, to what their friends, their enemies and their teachers, their government and the media think is best for them. They ignore their inner voice, that inner calling. They often forget what makes them happy, what they want, what they need. You have one life — this one right now — you must live it, own it, and especially don’t let other people’s opinions distract you from your path.
11. Commit To Your Goals
If you have a goal, work towards it. Anything is achievable if you put your heart into it. Whole-hearted dedication and diligence can bring extraordinary results and consequentially add to your happiness. It is very easy to lose vision for what we truly want in life, but it is your dedication towards your goals above and beyond all obstacles that will make the difference. When we look for positivity in the little things that make our lives worthwhile, we leave no room for negativity and our goals come to the forefront. Instead of recounting all events of the day, filter out only the positive ones and make a note of them. It could be anything trivial, from your bus arriving on time, your mom cooking a delicious breakfast, to remembering to pay the bills on time. You would not believe how this helps you achieve your goals — by clearing the mind.
12. Care For Your Body
Love yourself and love your body! Your physical condition has a direct connection with your well-being. A fit body and healthy mind is reflective of happiness. Start working towards the health of your physical, mental and emotional energy by caring for your body. Not only does it secrete happy hormones but also creates a sense of awareness within you. You will learn to control your breathing, and by way of it, control your mind from wandering. Every time you meditate, you feel a surge of positive energy through your body that calms your nerves, soothes your mind, elevates your mood, and not to mention enhances your level of tolerance. Take up positive activities with others or in isolation. Share a joke, narrate a pleasant incident, take part in sporting activities, go for a run in the evening after work, have healthy sex, and you’ll find yourself bubbling with positive energy.
Connect to a higher power. You’re probably already doing this with or without knowing. Just a quick meditation or prayer is easy. If you have the time, join a local prayer group, visit a meditation center, or simply spend some time alone in nature. You don’t have to be religious to have faith. People who believe in a deity are generally happier than those who don’t. Sometimes all you need to be happier is a little faith!
Imagination fires motivation. Create a ‘dream board’ and dream up something new you wish to experience. It could be finding a new lover, climbing a mountain, learning calligraphy, or going back to college. Dreams motivate, inspire and expand our sense of self. They also make us happy because they give our lives a sense of purpose. Happy people usually love what they do, and if they don’t, they love who they are. Dreams remind us who we are.
Cultivate a habit of sharing with others — your money, knowledge, service, wisdom, care, love. Find a person who shares a lot with others, and you will find a happy person. In giving, you always receive more. Not only do you get pleasure from giving, you give someone else pleasure. Giving has many unexpected benefits from attracting more happiness into your life, to inspiring others, and changing the lives of those you touch. In the end the whole world is made into a better place. Ask, “how can I serve?” Pay it forward. Give freely.
By practicing these steps daily and being conscious of them, you will learn gratitude at a level you could never appreciate before. You’re made out of love, and there’s an opportunity at every corner to show it.
Source: “15 Things To Start Practicing Today To Be Happy,” from preventdisease.com, by Josh Richardson