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Published on April 1, 2020

Why an Attitude of Gratitude Is Essential (And How to Develop It)

Why an Attitude of Gratitude Is Essential (And How to Develop It)

There is one way to make sure that you wake up every single day feeling calm, joyful and blissed-out, and that is to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

When you make it a conscious habit to express appreciation for your life, the Universe listens and responds with more love. Let me be clear… this doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person if you aren’t able to see the good on a bad day.

Life is far from perfect. Sometimes things happen that cause us to react negatively. Having a pity party is okay now and then. However, it does nothing good for your mental and emotional well-being.

An attitude of gratitude forces you to get outside of your problems and look at the bigger picture. In turn, you are better able to bounce forward when challenges occur in life.

What Is an Attitude of Gratitude?

An attitude of gratitude means that you operate from a place of abundance instead of a place of scarcity and fear. Each of us always has a choice of what we will focus on.

Grateful people give thanks for everything in their life, even on the days when it feels like nothing is going right.

To turn an attitude of gratitude into a sustainable habit, your foundation for feelings of gratitude must be independent of your circumstances.[1]

Hence, even on the days when it feels like nothing is going right, you have to find the silver lining and give thanks for what is working.

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As Melody Beattie says,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion to clarity.”

Why Is Gratitude Important?

We all know how important it is to have a positive attitude. We’re taught to look at the world as a half-full glass, rather than a half-empty one. There’s good reason to adopt this mindset.

Studies show that if you express gratitude, it raises your happiness by 25%.[2] When you take a moment to give thanks for what you have, instead of ruminating on what you don’t have, it fills you up.

If gratitude is so good for your mental and emotional health, then why do so many people struggle to practice it? As humans, we are hardwired to dwell or fixate on the bad.

Psychologists have found that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones, referred to as the negative bias.[3]

As a result, a lot of people tend to move farther away from gratitude, which is an essential precursor to happiness. As Lewis Howes says,

“If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.”

4 Simple Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Let’s look at 4 simple ways that you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

If someone were to ask you right now what you’re grateful for, would you be able to answer, without overthinking?

We often experience things that we should be grateful for, only to forget about them the next day. This is why writing down what you are grateful for is a good idea. By doing so you are rewriting your brain to focus on the good.

Gratitude journaling is the habit of recording and reflecting on things (typically three) that you are grateful for regularly.[4]

When it comes to practicing gratitude, consistency is key. Get into a routine of writing in your journal daily, preferably in the morning. This is a great way to start your day with a grateful heart.

Here’s How a Gratitude Journal Can Drastically Change Your Life

2. Express Your Gratitude

Once you have developed an attitude of gratitude, you are free to share that love with others. How often do you take the time to tell people in your life how much they mean to you?

Research shows that on the days that individuals strive to express their gratitude, they experience more positive emotions and are more likely to report helping someone and to feel connected with others.[5]

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Think about the people in your life who have made a positive impact on you. Reach out and tell them how much you appreciate them. There are plenty of ways to express your gratitude.

Start writing thank-you notes to anyone who has helped you along your journey, give out meaningful compliments, and celebrate the joys of others as if they are yours, too. Now, more than ever before, we need to uplift and inspire one another.

3. Celebrate the Small Things

We are conditioned to focus on and celebrate our big achievements, instead of our small wins. However, if you fail to ignore the small things and keep rushing from one thing to the next, you will quickly become demotivated.

Who you become isn’t determined by the end goal. Rather, it’s determined by the person who you become along your journey to success.

When you celebrate the small things, what you’re doing is celebrating your habits.[6]

Take time to pause, slow down and savor the small things. Instead of obsessing about the future or dwelling on the past, be more aware of the present moment. It’s all you’ve got. Relish in it.

4. Meditate on Gratitude

Meditation is a powerful practice in self-awareness. The goal isn’t to silence your thoughts. Rather, it’s to become an active observer of them. The process of meditation is all about allowing the mind to do its thing and accept it as it is.

I’ve always struggled with meditation. Sitting in silence for long periods of time isn’t my cup of tea. However, once I started combining meditation with gratitude, the game changed.

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I began the process of transforming my inner and outer world. Today, meditation has now become a non-negotiable ritual in my life.

Through meditation, we can build up areas of our brain and rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress.[7]

When you master the mind, you master your emotions. All of a sudden, everything in your life flows with more ease. You become less reactive and are better able to handle life’s challenges with grace.

The beauty of a gratitude meditation is that you can practice it anywhere. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule each day to reflect upon the things and people whom you are grateful for.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, this guide is for you: How Do You Meditate? 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

Watch your mood change instantly. It’s powerful.

Final Thoughts

It’s never too late to start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

What are you grateful for? Give thanks for whatever that is every single day. Life is beautiful. Take the time to stop and appreciate it. Gratitude has the power to transform your entire life.

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More Ways to Practice Gratitude

Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Ashley Elizabeth

Resilience Mastery Coach and Motivational Speaker

What Motivates You to Succeed in Life and Keep Moving Forward? 5 Reasons Why Keeping a Mood Journal Is Good For Your Mental Health 5 Ways to Help Yourself Advance Your Mental Strength 13 Simple Habits to Cultivate Self-Compassion 5 Steps to Bounce Back Fast When Life Knocks You Down

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Last Updated on January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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