As someone who’s been following Oprah Winfrey for years, I know how big she is on gratitude as a way of life. I first heard about the concept from her a few years ago, and at that time, I really didn’t get it. Although it sounded like a great “habit”, I honestly had no idea what the big deal was.
I mean, how is writing a few things I’m grateful for (at the end of each day) going to change my life? Is Ms Winfrey serious here? You see, that was my thinking back then. My mind really couldn’t comprehend all of that, but for some reason, I’ve always been curious about the idea. Fast forward to 2019 and here I am, writing about how important it is to practice gratitude.
Making small changes
It all started at the beginning of this year, during my 21-day fast in January. I was just at a point in my life where I really wanted to hear from God and sometimes, it takes making those “small” changes. So, there I was, praying and asking God to to take over my life in every way possible. And, I kid you not, I suddenly had this idea of getting myself a gratitude journal. I still wasn’t sold on this idea because it still didn’t make sense to me, but I went ahead and started although I wasn’t consistent in the first few weeks.
It’s been seven months now and there has been such a positive difference. Every evening, just before I go to bed, I write down five things that I’m grateful for. It’s not always easy because you literally sit there and think. The nice thing, though, is that there’s always something to be grateful for. This is what the practice has taught me. We tend to spend a lot of time worrying about, and focusing on things that we don’t have. It’s always about the next move, the next deal, getting a better car, job, relationship or house. This, I’ve seen, just turns you into an unhappy person who’s never satisfied.
What you focus on expands
Thankfully, it’s never too late to change and become a better person. If the last few months of practicing gratitude have taught me anything, it’s that whatever you focus on expands. You’ve probably heard this somewhere and maybe you even rolled your eyes (I know I did) after hearing it. But it is very true. When you focus on all the negative things going on in your life, you tend to attract more of that. And by attract, I mean you start seeing more negativity.
On the flip side, when you start practicing gratitude and you are consistent, guess what? You start seeing more things to be grateful for. For example, one of the things I’d write in my journal is, “today I’m grateful for all the love that is around me.” I’ve noticed that I’m attracting more love and I see it everywhere. I’m now even at a point in my life where I intentionally look for things to be grateful for every single day. It’s not always about the big things, by the way. Sometimes it’s kind gestures like someone opening the door for me, or someone giving me a complement. It really is that simple.
Gratitude unlocks joy
A few months ago, after one of my therapy sessions, I realised that life really isn’t much about the big things. I don’t know how much time I’ve spent waiting for big moments in my life so that I could be happy. It could be a new job title, buying a house, or even moving to another country. You have no idea how much I thought getting the job I wanted would really change my life for the better and get me to another level in my career.
Well, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I got to experience this last year; the dream job title and the dream company. And, let me tell you it wasn’t all that. It was a very miserable and short-lived achievement. I quickly realised that no job (title) or company would ever make me happy. That really changed my perspective on life and made me realise that I already have everything I need at any given moment.
My happiness is not tied to anything that is outside of myself. I learned this in a painful way but it’s a lesson that I’m truly grateful for. Had I not realised this when I did, I’d still be sitting here chasing the next big moment that would make me happy. I’m so glad I’m now in a calmer space internally and I can confidently say I am content with my life. It’s only now that I’m realising that my mother was right when she told me, “be content with what you have.” It’s only making sense to me now.
I believe that gratitude unlocks joy, which leads to contentment. Try it, you will see just how much better your life will be.