Not long ago, I met with a young man in his late 20’s who told me that “things just don’t work out for him”. He had lost his father years before in a tragic car accident. He struggled to find a career path that excited him. And love always seemed to elude him.
He watched as his friends and family members all seemed to move forward in life, yet he was left further and further behind. He detailed for me a number of grievances he had about his circumstances.
As he talked on, it became absolutely clear in my mind what my young friend’s struggle was. He wasn’t simply unlucky or doomed in life. He was, however, in very short supply of a particular state of mind that has been proven to have transformative power in multiple areas of our lives:
If you’re thinking that I’m being cheesy or a little too “Pollyanna” about this – please hear me out. There is a scientific foundation for what I’m saying.
Psychologist Robert Emmons has been researching gratitude from a scientific perspective for over 15 years. The following is a list of benefits that have been linked to increased levels of gratitude:
Who wouldn‘t like to receive those kind of benefits? In fact, many of the items on that list can, in and of themselves, yield life-changing benefits, and gratitude can be the very source of all of them!
Does that seem to good to be true?
Think about this logically. When you experience feelings of gratitude, doesn’t it seem like there are endless, abundant opportunities ahead of you? Compare that to times when you experience those “woe-is-me” moments. A negative mindset leaves you feeling scarcity—like you’ll never have enough—or that even if you try, you’ll probably just fail.
When teaching Color Code Workshops, I talk about the strengths and limitations of each of the Color Code personality styles. One limitation that is common for Blues to struggle with is that of being worry-prone, whereas a common strength of the Yellows is to be optimistic.
Think about the difference there. If you are worry-prone, your mind is in a “negative goal setting” mode, but when you’re optimistic, you have the feeling that you can find a “silver lining” and a way to land on your feet. You activate your brain to find solutions as opposed to preparing for failure.
Gratitude, like optimism, is a state of mind, and you can adopt an “attitude of gratitude” and gain the power to transform your life in multiple ways for free.
One of the most common ways of doing this is by keeping a gratitude journal. Record three to five experiences that happened to you during the course of your day that you are grateful for.
Let yourself visualize the experience again and feel and think through all of the implications of the life lessons you learned from those moments.If that sounds too easy to be effective, consider this:
Research shows that recording daily experiences for which you are grateful for only two consecutive weeks can result in positive effects sustained for up to six months. So be careful not to dismiss the idea of keeping a basic gratitude journal as being too simple.
There are many other ways to practice gratitude. Some pray to give thanks. Others have taken it upon themselves to write thank you cards daily. Others meditate and focus on being mindful of their feelings of gratitude.
I invite you to conduct an experiment of gratitude in your own life. Take from these ideas, or develop your own. The promise that I left my downtrodden, young friend is the same that I’ll extend to you. It is that as you increase the amount of gratitude you experience on a daily basis, you will begin to change and transform your entire life!