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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Appreciate Life More and Be Grateful

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How to Appreciate Life More and Be Grateful

When you look at your life, are you enjoying the moment? Can you really appreciate life? If not, what do you need to change?

Maybe you need to change everything.

Gratitude takes a simple shift in your mindset. Notice the positive things, and you’ll feel positive. Notice the joys, and you’ll feel joyous. Notice goodness of the life you have, and you have more things to look forward to.

Gratitude rewires the brain. The ventral and dorsal medial prefrontal cortex are activated and “involved in feelings of reward (the reward when stress is removed), morality, interpersonal bonding, and positive social interactions, and the ability to understand what other people are thinking or feeling.” [1] After that, your brain releases neurochemicals like dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which allow you to experience happiness.

You may start a day with negative emotions and perceptions, but choosing to be grateful can help you in many ways. Appreciation leads to finding determination and feeling whole, you see. It can help you love your life even at your lowest.

Appreciation is all you need to make the most of your life.

You can appreciate life more and be grateful in the following ways:

1. Give

When you give to others, you don’t immediately realize how much impact your life can have on them. That makes it more meaningful.

You can easily give to a stranger, a loved one, or anyone by merely showing up for them. It doesn’t matter if you don’t have endless means to provide for other people. What matters is that you care.

Selflessness is so vital in becoming the best version of yourself. Why? You’re a part of something bigger than yourself. You’re living with meaning and purpose. You lose yourself in doing good, so you can think of yourself less while still getting to know yourself. It comes full circle.

When you give selflessly, ethics and empathy are the best tools to have under your belt. You grow and evolve and see what’s most important in life this way.

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Sometimes, it’s easy to forget what’s real and get lost in the fleeting, fake side of life. But when you give, you remember everything. You remember your why — your reason for reaching out to those in need. You are no longer alone, and your love for life just shines through you.

What should you give, you may ask?

Give your time if you can’t give anything else. In that sense, anyone can provide something valuable to others. You will feel grateful for all you can do in this life with what you have.

It doesn’t mean that giving will solve your problems or anyone else’s. Kindness in this world can do so many things that we don’t even know of.

You don’t do it for rewards. You do it because it feels right to give.

This is how to lead a life that you can feel good about.

2. Mindfulness

Sit with your feelings, your thoughts. Listen to what your gut is trying to tell you. Love yourself. Then, look around you and see what you have.

Focus on the senses, and ground yourself in things that make you happy. You can be at the moment if you do it more than you usually do. Thus, you can appreciate life and the small things that come with it.

Try to realize how tiny you are compared to the vastness of the sea or sky. There is much to be in awe of in this world. Forget what is false and fleeting, and see the brilliance of being alive.

Mindfulness is one trick that most psychologists and gurus use to help others get over their fears. It is about finding acceptance, going with the flow, and sticking with it.[2] Instead of focusing on what you’re afraid of or worried about, you need to cherish the moment and focus at present.

Here is a helpful guide if you want to learn how to live in the moment: 5 Reasons to Live in the Moment and Stop Planning Too Much

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If you are mindful, you can take control of your life by letting go. This will reduce your stress and increase your mental strength. Your life can improve when you know what doesn’t serve you anymore. Then, you may learn to appreciate life without depending on others.

3. Love Yourself

When you love yourself, you can be more grateful for the life that you have. You can rise to meet any challenge that comes your way. You just have to try to be good to yourself like you would to anyone else.

Self-compassion is key to surviving whatever you are going through. Once you feel that, you will know who you are meant to be.

According to Deepak Chopra, unconditionally loving yourself is about accepting your flaws, inner resistance and challenges, old wounds, etc.[3] It’s not about just plastering a smile on your face and faking self-love. No, you have to get real with yourself.

Being vulnerable takes some power and honesty. You may start loving yourself more if you genuinely face things and appreciate how far you’ve come.

Appreciate who you are as you are. It doesn’t mean that you are perfect or that you are worth it. When you accept yourself as a whole, you can climb higher than you ever imagine and view yourself with pride.

You got here. You made it this far.

What do you love about yourself? What about the imperfections — can you give yourself grace for some of them? Be patient with yourself and realize what you have to offer. No one can live this life but you.

You have your unique path, so try to love yourself and enjoy the ride.

Learn more about How to Love Yourself And Embrace Who You Really Are.

4. Hyperfocus on the Positive

When you have a positive outlook, you become productive. When you look at what’s good in life, you can do more with it. When you stay hyperfocused on the positive, you can achieve anything.

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You appreciate life more when you have this mindset because you choose not to focus on its negative aspects every second of your waking day. You look at everything around you, figure out what you can use, and ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is an act of kindness that I or someone I know has done?
  • What is an experience I can look back on and feel good about?
  • What has made me feel happy lately?
  • What activities have I enjoyed?
  • What’s a positive thought about myself and my life?
  • What healthy choices have I been making?
  • What good things can I do more of?
  • What can I appreciate even during the days when I feel like giving up?
  • What good can gratitude do for me?.

5. Make a Gratitude List

You’ve probably heard of this one before, but it’s not easy to make a gratitude list. Still, that’s precisely what you should be doing.

Write down everything you are grateful for at the end of each day. Stay open to how life progresses and how your attitude or beliefs change before it’s too late.

The things you are grateful for don’t have to be colossal. It can be something that has happened in your past or is happening right now. It may even be something that you are looking forward to.

There are also simple ways to create a list. In truth, some of them were even used by children. For instance, you can play “rose and thorn” every day.[4] What was the lively (rose) or awful (thorn) part of your day? Try to find more roses than thorns whenever possible.

More importantly, you can write a gratitude list anytime, any day. No matter what your reason is, just write it. Then, you will find yourself feeling genuinely grateful for the things you have written down.

6. Take a Break

Have you spent time with the people you care about lately? Have you chosen to look around you and see how good your life is?

It doesn’t mean you don’t have to keep evolving appreciate the now. In order to develop, you have to know what’s worth fighting for. The quickest way to do that is by taking a break to enjoy life more.

Whether you take a vacation or go to your backyard to experience the wonders of life, take the time to do so. Perhaps you just need to exhale and know that you are safe. Maybe you were missing out on things before, or there was a version of yourself you would like to get back. Whatever it is, you can gain it all by showing gratitude.

Explore nature. Take a trip. Get out of the house. Put down your smartphone and look up in the sky. Take the more scenic route and find a way back to what matters.

7. Celebrate Your Wins

Please take note of what you have achieved in life and what you continue to do well.

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Doing so says a lot about you. It entails that you have a reason to get up in the morning and keep going. With that perspective, you can do anything.

You can also be grateful for any accomplishment, even if it’s as simple as being alive. You are still here; you will always have something to say.

Even if you can’t succeed at everything, whatever progress you have made matters. It tells an important story about not just who you are but who you can become as well.

You are resilient, worthy, and good enough. All you have to do is see it — see your value — to appreciate your worth and shape your life’s narrative.

8. Stay Thankful

You may not know how far a simple “thank you” can go.

When you appreciate everyone, you make more profound and more meaningful connections. When your life takes a positive turn, you cannot forget the people who have helped you along the way. After all, if you can remember them, you can remember yourself. You can choose to keep giving and showing up for life because you know who supports you.

Furthermore, say thank you to life itself. Be grateful every time you walk outside. You can decide to make it a good day just by being grateful. You get this one life, and what you do with it is up to you.

Your life has value. If you give up, you will never appreciate life. Your time is short, so every little bit matters.

When you give thanks, you make meaning. You pick out parts of your life that are still good and hold onto them despite everything. Then, you pay it forward by doing a good deed for someone else. You can pay attention to the world and its beauty even if you are dealing with a mess by simply being thankful.

Final Thoughts

It’s not always easy to see what’s right in front of you. It’s easier to complain, close off, and be blind to the beauty that this life has to offer.

However, when you open up, you recognize that you are never alone. You have enough. You ARE enough. And that’s the power of appreciation.

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Appreciation can fill you with positive thoughts and emotions when you think you have nothing. It’s the fuel that can help you keep going.

More on Appreciating Your Life

Featured photo credit: Nazym Jumadilova via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Sarah Browne

Sarah is a speaker, writer and activist

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

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How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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