November is the month of gratitude.  Every November you will hear about friends listing the things they are grateful for, or the tradition of going around the table at Thanksgiving listing the people, places, or things that provided a memorable impact for you.

So, you have to wonder ….  is gratitude really a thing?  Is there power behind gratitude?   Is it really important? Will being more grateful really improve life?  The answer is an overwhelming yes, yes, yes and YES!

Gratitude is an emotion that relates to our ability to feel and express thankfulness and appreciation.  Simply put, being grateful allows us to focus on the positives in life rather than the negative. Did you know you are unable to be grateful and worried at the same time?  Our brains do not allow two different emotions to be present at the same time. So it is cognitively impossible to think about how blessed you are to purchase your dream home while simultaneously stressing about property taxes.  

Being grateful helps with money issues, job performance, relationships (both personal and professional) and also our health.  I am not suggesting that just because you are grateful that you will automatically start getting more money. But by being grateful for the money you have and learning to be content with your material possessions may help you want for less.  When you want for less, you buy less, thus saving you money. When you are saving money, you have more money.

Practicing gratitude can also help you in your professional life.  Kulraj tells us that being content in our current situation at work and having a reduced need for exterior pleasures will allow us to harbor patience, which in turn develops more logical, balanced, and thoughtful decision-making skills.  Having patience will have a positive effect on business situations including not jumping at deals, taking offers or opportunities only for short-term gains and helping reduce negative discussions with co-workers by being more understanding of others’ actions.  All these things will allow your work day to become more relaxed and productive.

Science shows us relationships are key to our survival.  Love is not just an emotion, but an essential need for humans.  So how do we get and keep the best possible people into our lives?  The answer is really quite simple, light attracts light. When you are practicing gratefulness, you instantly become happier, healthier, are slow to anger and judgement, and even more energetic.  Who wouldn’t want to be around a person that exudes good will and patience towards everyone and everything? Of course, we all have our moments when we curse at the car that just cut us off or are upset because our spouse left dirty dishes in the sink again; but it’s what we do with that energy that will decide how the rest of our day goes.  Learning to be thankful for a thoughtful spouse that yes, left the dishes in the sink, but was kind enough to bring you a cup of coffee while you were in the shower. Perhaps the person who cut you off in traffic had a late start because the electricity is out at their house and they’re afraid of getting fired if they are late. Showing them a little grace instead of honking the horn will go a long way in helping your day go well.  As the saying goes…., “Only you can make it a great day!”

Gratitude is important to our health as well.  Greater optimism results in increased self-esteem, higher energy levels, stronger immunity, and lower blood pressure.  When we embody gratefulness we begin to experience less stress, anxiety, depression and even headaches. When we begin to feel better physically, we automatically want to take better care of ourselves and effortlessly transition into a better diet and more activity.  

So you’re convinced that gratitude is key to a happy life, but how do you really begin to practice?  The simplest start would be to keep a gratitude journal. Many different styles of journals can be purchased or you can just as easily keep a notebook next to your bed and write 3 to 5 things down that you are thankful for at the end of the day and start your morning with another 3-5 items before your feet hit the floor.  Why not take a walk and soak up the beauty found only in nature. Take time to have a pleasant conversation with someone you haven’t spoken to in some time. Sit in a comfortable chair, close your eyes and think about a favorite memory for a few minutes. There are innumerable ways to pause a moment to appreciate the moments in your day.

Practicing gratitude is a simple and effective way to improve your life on many levels in just a few minutes a day.  

So my question is simply this:  What are you grateful for today?