Gratitude is a practice and emotion closely related to attracting and manifesting abundance in our lives. Many best-selling authors, life coaches, and programs like Thought Elevators recommend practicing gratitude to invite more goodness into our life and also to improve several physical aspects, including health.
However, it’s not common practice and there are mental obstacles that make it difficult for us to maintain a grateful attitude. It’s easier for us to look at what we don’t have instead of expressing gratitude for that which we do have.
Our brain has a habit of giving bad information more attention and more credit than it does to good information. PubMed has a research that states negative information weighs more heavily on the brain, and that this negativity bias affects our processes during evaluating information.
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Why Gratitude is Difficult
That’s partly why bad news circulates more than good news, because it appeals to the part of our brain that is in constant search for possible threats and danger. Our brain has the job of seeking signals that can threaten our life, to confirm whether we are safe or should be alarmed.
Considering how hardwired we are to notice bad events, it becomes difficult to be grateful and focus our mental energy to appreciate good events. It’s not impossible, but we have to give more effort and energy to practice gratitude and notice the good in our lives.
On top of this biological behavior, our modern cultural behavior doesn’t encourage gratitude either. The current culture is conditioned to focus on what we don’t have and strive to have it. Advertising, television, and social groups give acknowledgment to individuals who “have it all”.
The Cycle of Non-Gratitude
Following this collective behavior can be seriously detrimental for our happiness. When we feel we lack possessions, we become less generous to other people and less willing to help them and share our resources with them. We become less available to the opportunities and paths that can open up when we build a positive relationship with other people.
It then becomes a negative cycle. Since we aren’t grateful and focus on what we lack, we actually manifest more restrictions and limitations in our lives. We develop the illusion that there are no good opportunities available to us, when it’s the opposite: we aren’t available to opportunities.
How Then to Practice Gratitude?
There are several ways recommended by life coaches, though in my opinion not all of them are effective or are only useful in the short term. You want a practice that can work in the long term.
One of the practices I used to do but don’t anymore is writing down an amount of items for which I’m grateful. It seems to me that this practice is a substitute to replace figuring out a problem. Instead of understanding if there is a block to my abundance, writing a list makes me think I have done work today and made progress, when I haven’t.
Goodness is in my life, and it is there everyday, but I am looking for gratitude practices that can open my eyes wider to the opportunities. One practice I do is to say thank you when I mean it, especially for small acts that other people do.
Jack Canfield recommends this exercise since it builds your rapport with other people at the same time, people who may have opportunities.
Three Gratitude Exercises I Do
Another practice I want to try is to carry a physical reminder of gratitude in my pocket or wallet. There are times in our lives when we achieve a highlight, and there maybe a token from that time. We can carry that token with us and hold it or look at it to remind ourselves to be grateful. An example of a token I have is a carabiner (used for climbing) that reminds me of special people.
One more exercise I do and absolutely recommend is celebrating small accomplishments. The celebration can be small too, such as treating yourself to ice cream. It’s not big, but purposefully acknowledging your achievements helps to condition your brain to pay more attention to good events. It also puts you in the mood to achieve your next milestone and celebration reward.
Finally, happy people produce, so if you feel like your life is full of bad, try creating an item. Songwriting is one of my hobbies (that have made money in the past). When I make music, it becomes therapeutic as many artists say. You can try producing small items to put you in the grateful mood, such as editing a family photo or creating a slideshow of special photos.
Those are three ways that you can use to practice gratitude and increase abundance. Carrying a physical reminder makes you say thank you more often. Celebrating accomplishments motivates you to take more action. Producing something puts you in a creative mood and makes you aware there are many actions you can do to improve your life.