How to shift your mindset by being more grateful
by Hannah Moss
Welcome to the second post in my Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life blog series. The first post in the series, 3 ways to become a positive thinker, looked at the difference between positive thinking and optimism, and just how powerful our thoughts can be. It also introduced 3 practical tools you can start using every day to start thinking more positively.
In this post, I dive into the first of these tools – gratitude. We’ll explore what it means to be grateful, the part gratitude plays in shifting your mindset and how you can introduce a gratitude practice into your daily life.
What does gratitude mean?
According to Dictionary.com, the definition of gratitude is simply, “the quality or feeling of being grateful or thankful.” However, Very Well Mind goes further than this and describes gratitude as, “a positive emotion that involves being thankful and appreciative and is associated with several mental and physical health benefits. When you experience gratitude, you feel grateful for something or someone in your life and respond with feelings of kindness, warmth, and other forms of generosity.”
The key for me here is the “mental and physical health benefits”. Because it’s one thing to say “Thank you” to someone when they give, say or do something nice to you, but practising gratitude in a formal way on a regular basis can have a powerful positive impact on your mental, physical and emotional health. And, as the definition also points out, the more grateful you feel, the more likely you are to practise kindness and generosity, which in turn encourages more gratitude in others too.
In 3 ways to become a positive thinker we looked at some of the physical and mental health benefits of thinking more positively, and practising gratitude is one of the ways we can start doing this. By training our brain to focus on the more positive sides of life and situations, we actually start to attract more positive things into our life. This is the core principle of the Law of Attraction, which we’ll look at in more detail below.
As Oprah Winfrey famously said, “Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” This is one of my favourite ever quotes!
Scarcity vs abundance mindset
To build on Oprah’s quote, if you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll be looking at life from a scarcity mindset. You’ll be constantly comparing yourself to others, wishing you had what they (apparently) have and falling into the ‘if only’ trap:
- “If only I had more money/time/energy, I’d be able to… xyz.”
- “If only I had that house/car/job/literally any other item, then I’d be happy.”
- “If only I could be more confident/extroverted/organised/patient, I’d enjoy my life more.”
Practising being more grateful in your life helps to shift your mental state from a scarcity mindset to an abundant mindset. You start to see things through a different lens. You start to appreciate all the amazing things you do have in your life, rather than focusing on what’s missing – which, by the way, is a very subjective viewpoint anyway.
You can actually change your entire perspective and outlook on life simply by changing the way you think; your inner landscape. And, as I’ve already mentioned, the more abundant your mindset, the more abundance will start flowing into your life.
As Eckhart Tolle explains in A New Earth, “Abundance comes only to those who already have it. It sounds almost unfair, but of course it isn’t. It is a universal law. Both abundance and scarcity are inner states that manifest as your reality.”
Finding the silver linings
As I explored in 5 ways to become emotionally resilient, finding the silver linings in any given situation is a key component of optimism, which is one of the steps to resilience. So, the next time something goes wrong or doesn’t turn out the way you expected, can you find the blessings in that situation?
Of course, I’m not saying you’re not allowed to be disappointed or upset. All feelings are valid and it’s important to acknowledge them. But, did you know that emotions only last in the body for 90 seconds? It’s only the mental story we attach to those emotions that keeps them alive and kicking! So, once you’ve allowed the feelings to arise, can you then start to shift your mindset to focus on the positives? This will help to keep any negative emotions in check and stop them spiralling out of control.
Some recent silver linings of my own
To demonstrate this in action, I actually had a recent experience myself, just the day before sitting down to write this article! I had been planning to go away for a few days on an important trip. I’d booked an AirBnB and my train tickets and had organised various other bits and pieces. The day before I was meant to leave, I discovered the person I was going to visit had been suddenly taken into hospital for an operation, so the whole thing had to be cancelled.
Obviously, I was very concerned for them, but once I’d established they were ok, the feelings arising in me were a combination of disappointment, sadness and confusion. As someone who likes to plan ahead and know what’s happening most of the time (one of my nicknames is Hannah the Planner), I felt very discombobulated for the rest of the day. I spent time cancelling arrangements, reorganising my diary and working out what I now could and couldn’t do. It wasn’t just the practical implications that cancelling this particular trip caused, but the emotional repercussions too.
But, after these initial feelings subsided, I was able to find lots of silver linings. I’d be saving money, I didn’t have to sit on trains for hours on end, I didn’t have the hassle of staying in temporary accommodation with only basic cooking facilities, and I could now attend an important online masterclass live, instead of having to watch the replay.
And of course, as a perfect display of synchronicity, it also meant I had a really recent and direct example of finding silver linings to include in this very article!
How the Law of Attraction works
The Law of Attraction says that, “If you focus on negative doom and gloom you will remain under that cloud. If you focus on positive thoughts and have goals that you aim to achieve you will find a way to achieve them with massive action.”
All of our thoughts have vibrations and these attract other similar vibrations. So, if we send out negative vibrations via our thoughts, we’ll get negative vibrations back. These can manifest as things going ‘wrong’ in our life, events and situations not turning out as we expected, attracting toxic people and relationships, and even encouraging disease and illness to arise in us.
Positive thoughts and vibrations, on the other hand, attract positive vibrations back. So, we might find welcome opportunities arising, invitations to events we want to go to, attracting healthy people and relationships into our life, experiencing synchronicities (being in the right place at the right time), things going well and generally finding a sense of flow and abundance in our life. (For a closer look at flow state, read my post What is flow state and how do you reach it?)
As you can see, the more grateful we become, the more positive our thoughts and vibrations are, which in turn attract more positive people and events into our daily reality.
How to practise being grateful
So, how do we start becoming more grateful? There are several different ways to practise gratitude, from an ad hoc approach to a more structured, formal practice. You might be drawn to one of these methods more than the others, or you might want to try them all out and see what works best for you. You can also practise a combination of these methods, depending on your circumstances and preferences.
Daily gratitude practice
The easiest way to start practising gratitude regularly is to incorporate it into your bedtime routine. Each night, before you go to sleep, bring to mind 3 things that have happened that day that you feel grateful for. These could be related to events, situations, people, your skills, your personality traits, the lessons you’ve learned or even the weather.
As well as training your thoughts on the positive and helping you to reflect on the day, this practice has the added benefit of helping you to drift off to sleep in a positive mental state. The thoughts we have before drifting off can significantly impact the quality of our sleep and dreams. How different do you think your sleep experience would be if you drifted off amidst thoughts of gratitude, compared to thoughts of irritation, anxiety or overwhelm? And, if you’re someone who tends to check your phone or social media right before going to sleep, read my post 10 sleep hygiene hacks for a better night’s sleep to find out why you should stop doing this right away!
You can also practise daily gratitude first thing in the morning if that suits you better. You can do the same exercise to think of 3 things you’re grateful for, by reflecting on the previous day. You might even feel more positive towards certain events from that day, with the benefit of a good night’s sleep. And, of course, waking up with feelings of gratitude will have a ripple effect as you go about the rest of your day. Whereas, if you start your morning thinking negative thoughts, you’re likely to attract negative vibrations throughout the day.
This is what a recent client said after I encouraged him to start a daily gratitude practice: “The gratitude practice is going well. I’ve done it for the last two nights and I’m finding myself noticing more things that I feel grateful for, throughout the day. I’m trying to be more awake and aware of everything. So, thank you for the tip.”
A more formal, structured way to practise gratitude is to start a gratitude journal. I’d suggest buying a new notebook for this (personally, I love the smell and feel of a new notebook for starting a new project) and having it somewhere handy. Keeping it next to your bed is a good reminder to write in your journal either last thing at night or first thing in the morning, whichever works best for you.
You can organise your journal however you like. You might want to stick to 3 things you’re grateful for each day, you might want to set a higher number than this, or you might want to give yourself free rein to write down as many things that come to mind. You could also organise your journal into categories, for example:
- What event are you most grateful for today?
- Who are you most grateful for today and why?
- What lesson did you learn today?
- What skill or attribute do you most appreciate about yourself today?
- What surprising thing did you notice today?
- What are you most grateful for in your life right now?
If you’d rather follow a set format than using a blank notebook, there are many gratitude journals you can buy. Some will be very simple and others will have questions and categories similar to those above. So, shop around and find the one that feels right for you.
Gratitude for all things
It’s important to note that gratitude shouldn’t only be applied to positive events and situations. In fact, I believe you’ll get the best results if you can practise being grateful for all things. So, when something goes wrong, it’s easy to be quickly consumed by feelings of upset, disappointment, anger, frustration, irritation, guilt, shame or grief. Once you’ve allowed these feelings to arise, to avoid them completely taking over your whole being, see if you can find some gratitude for the situation.
This comes back to those silver linings again. Can you thank the situation for allowing you to do xyz instead? Or for showing you a lesson you needed to learn? Or for highlighting some particular issue you wouldn’t have been aware of otherwise?
If you can practise being grateful for the things that don’t go so well, as well as the things that do, you’ll be training your brain to always see the good in things and tapping into that abundance mindset.
Arigato your money
I recently watched a masterclass by Ken Honda called ‘The Japanese Art of Healing Your Money Wounds.’ At the core of this class was a teaching known as the Arigato Technique that Ken had learned from his mentor, Wahei Takeda, who’s known as the ‘Warren Buffett of Japan’. The technique is very simple, but apparently has powerful consequences when it comes to attracting more success and wealth into your life.
‘Arigato’ means ‘thank you’ in Japanese, so when Wahei Takeda says you should ‘Arigato your money’, he means you should thank it. Arigato in and arigato out. So, when money comes to you – for whatever reason, whether physically or digitally – say thank you to the money. But you should also thank the money when it goes out, too.
You could think of this as saying thank you for the product or service you’ve received, but you can also practise feeling grateful that your money is being used for something good (assuming you’re making ethical choices about how you’re spending it!). Whether your money is going to an individual, a charity, an organisation or a business, it’s either paying someone’s wages or contributing to the work that company is doing.
But, more than this, you can also be saying thank you to the general circulation of money. Essentially, money is a form of energy. It’s constantly moving and in flux. It operates in loops and circles and spirals. You never know where the money you spend will end up. It might eventually fall into the hands of someone you know and really help them; it could even end up back in your own hands!
When I reflected on this teaching, I realised how often I feel resentful whilst spending money. I know I have a scarcity mindset myself when it comes to my finances and I’m working on changing my own language and beliefs around this. The Arigato Technique is something I’m definitely going to start putting into practice in my own life to help shift my mindset around money.
Where to start if gratitude feels a challenge
If you’re new to practising gratitude, it can feel awkward, alien or just downright hard to begin with. Depending on your frame of mind, you might initially feel you have nothing to be grateful for and that everything in your life is awful.
If it feels difficult at first, try focusing on small things to start with. Did you start the day with a hot drink or a nice breakfast? Did you see the sunshine or notice some interesting clouds in the sky? Did you hear birds singing or notice the flowers and trees, even if you live in a city? Did someone say a kind word to you? Did you watch or listen to something interesting? Did you enjoy getting into bed at the end of the day?
If starting small is challenging for you, you could also try starting with the bigger picture and scaling down from there. What do you have in your life that others in the world might not? Do you have a roof over your head and clean, running water? Do you have access to education and civil liberties? Do you have the freedom to move around your local community at will?
Although comparing ourselves to others is generally not a healthy thing to do, it can actually be helpful when you find yourself in a very negative frame of mind. It can help you see that you’re not alone and there are always others dealing with similar issues. Or it can help to put your own situation in perspective and appreciate that there’s usually someone worse off than you in the world.
The more you practise gratitude, the easier it gets. So, even if it feels challenging at first, try to focus on whatever comes naturally for you. There are always things, events and people that we can appreciate in our life, even if it doesn’t seem that way at first. Make a start and, I promise, it will get easier.
I’d love to know how you get on with your gratitude practice, so try out the options outlined above and leave a comment below to share your experiences.
In the next part of this blog series, I’ll be taking a closer look at positive affirmations and how they can help to improve your life.
If you can’t wait til then, and you want to start changing your mindset NOW, then book a free discovery call to find out more about working with me.
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