Written by grace deunk

Who of us does not wish to be happy? I'm sure as humans we all crave lives of contentment, enrichment and fulfillment. According to leading 'gratitude' researcher Robert Emmous, one way to achieve this type of life is to develop an 'attitude of gratitude'. It has been well documented that people who are thankful generally have more positive relationships, less anxiety, increased empathy and reduced aggression. Grateful people suffer less from toxic emotions such as envy, frustration, resentment or regret. Grateful people experience better physical and psychological health, they sleep better and are more content with life in general.

So, who doesn’t want that? Can one really become more grateful, even amidst life's difficulties? I remember my parents who relished and savoured each meal, regardless of how simple it was. My parents experienced extreme hunger during the final days of WWII. I, on the other hand, have never been hungry, and never give food a second thought. I think of my friend who expresses deep gratitude for her daily walk. My friend can walk only because of medical interventions after a serious accident. I do not recall the last time I felt deep gratitude for the ability to walk. Does this mean the only path to thankful living is through an experience of loss? No so - an attitude of gratitude can be cultivated by any one of us. We can begin by following a few basic steps. 

1. Notice: This sounds easier than it actually is. Noticing takes time and discipline. When our lives are a whirlwind of activity, it is very difficult to even notice the things for which we could give thanks. A good way to train the mind to notice is to set a timer to go off once each hour. Then stop, notice what's going on around you, and think of one thing you could have been thankful for in the past hour. Was is a good cup of coffee? A warm hello from a friend? The sun shining warmly through the window?

2. Journal: Take just a few moments each day to jot down some things you are thankful for. Are there positive aspects of your work? What are you thankful for regarding the people in your life? Think about the positive aspects of difficult people or situations. What can you learn from this these? 

3. Focus: Pick one specific activity each week that you will give special attention to, relish and enjoy to the maximum. Perhaps it could be waking up in a warm bed each morning, wiggling your toes, feeling that relaxed cozy feeling before the busy day begins. Or it could be the clean fresh feeling of a warm shower. You will notice the more you explore the sensations of this simple activity, the more you will become thankful for it.