The Difference that Gratitude Makes

You can be the most successful person in the world, but if you aren’t practicing gratitude, you probably won’t be happy. That’s because gratitude is that key factor that forces you to acknowledge what you have—and what you’ve worked so hard for.

I say “practice” gratitude because it doesn’t always come naturally to us. Caught up in the stresses of everyday life, it’s easy to overlook the good surrounding us. It’s even harder when it seems like everything is going wrong. Sometimes we really have to dig to find gratitude on a crappy day. But it’s worth it.

Studies have shown that making an effort to focus on the positive and express appreciation for those things results in a greater sense of well-being. Naturally, if you’re obsessed with everything that’s gone wrong and everything you don’t have, you won’t be a happy person. But if you can cut through that clutter and see the silver lining surrounding your life, you’re more likely to smile through the tougher times.

Here’s why that matters: Gratitude can make you a more successful person in general. It’s about moving forward rather than staying stuck in the past. It’s about connecting with others and the world around us, instead of staying stuck in our own heads.

 It’s not about complacence, or just accepting your lot in life. It’s about recognizing the gifts you’ve been given that have gotten you to where you are today, and feeling gratitude for your ability to always move forward.

Research has also shown that gratitude is key to our mental health, encouraging a general sense of optimism, healthy relationships, better physical health, and greater progress toward personal goals. It makes us more generous and empathetic, and gives us greater self-esteem. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Gratitude is a powerful, powerful thing.

Here are some simple ways to integrate more gratitude into your life today:

  • Appreciate the little things. Don’t wait for something huge to happen to start your journey toward thankfulness. Be grateful for an unseasonably warm day or a perfect cheeseburger. Embrace the power of these happy little moments, because they add up.
  • Express your gratitude openly. There are two ways you should do this: Start keeping a gratitude journal. And start telling others that you appreciate what they do in your life. Whether it’s your hard-working coworker, your spouse, or your child who always makes you laugh after a long day, let them know how much you appreciate the part they play in making your life better.
  • Put a positive spin on negative experiences. It’s easy to focus only on everything that’s going right in your world, but consider looking back on some tougher times and thinking about how they helped you grow into the person you are today. Getting into that mindset will help you get through more trying times in your life, because you know you’ll come out stronger in the end.