I don’t know about you, but for me, cultivating an attitude of gratitude has been something that I’ve had to be very intentional about doing. Even though I am a pretty optimistic person by nature, I don’t really think gratitude comes naturally to most of us. For me, it was a mindset that required thoughtfulness, intentionality, and faithfulness to develop. In fact, simply pursuing it has borne the fruit of joy in my life, which in turn make my ongoing efforts to nurture a grateful heart well worth it.
Did you know that having an attitude of gratitude can significantly affect your health? A recent study in Primary Health Care Research & Development found that the act of explicitly expressing gratitude lifted people’s mood and sense of well-being. Another recent study targeted health-care workers, asking them to journal about why they were grateful. The reported experiencing an average 28% reduction in stress, and it halved the risk of depression in those with a history of the disease! Yet another research study focused on suicidal patients, asking them to write a letter of gratitude. In a whopping 90% of cases, it decreased their sense of hopelessness significantly.
So how do we learn to count our blessings, as opposed to focusing on life’s annoyances and frustrations? For me, it simply became a discipline that became a habit, then became an integrated part of my life. I’ve found that it’s hard to be unhappy when you force yourself to focus on the things you have to be thankful for in life. You can cultivate a happy heart simply by training yourself to look for the blessings in even the most challenging situations. (Honestly, I’m not sure there’s a shortcut!) Here are some things that bring me joy –
fresh flowers * crunchy cereal with cold milk * when my 20-year-old daughter calls me “Mommy” * my favorite candle * blue skies * when my husband laughs at something funny I say * finding the perfect gift for someone I love * bubble baths * pink lipstick * compliments * when I’m done with my workout * the smell of peanut butter * funny graphic tees * that “new car” smell * Bible study * stretchy shorts * a baby’s giggle * puppies * when my grown sons hug me * new shoes * honesty * when hard work pays off * french fries * my favorite tea * a sincere smile * chick flicks * nail polish that stays chip-free for days * how my empty nest house stays clean * sleeping in on a Saturday * my “happy” sweatshirt * a fire in the fireplace * sincerity * when someone gives me a gift that they say just “looked” like me * making a new friend * my favorite beach spot * movie theater popcorn
One of the best things I do is keep a gratitude journal. It helps me nurture an attitude of gratitude by focusing on things, large or small, that bring me joy. I have a surprise for you today! One of my very favorite Etsy shops is Joy Creative Shop. (Post coming Friday on their fantastic gift ideas for all those special occasions we empty nesters have in our lives!) I reached out to the owner, Steph Weibring, and asked if she would be willing to create a gratitude journal exclusively for my readers. We worked together to design this adorable Gratitude Journal just for you, and Joy Creative Shop is offering it at a discount through the end of April. (I’m getting several to use as gifts!) Sometimes it’s the little things in life that bring us the most joy, and if this adorable journal doesn’t make you smile, I don’t know what will!
What makes your heart happy? I’d love it if you’d leave me a comment and share a few of the things on your joyful list. Cultivating an attitude of gratitude is a joyful act unto itself, amirite? 🙂
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