With Thanksgiving right around the corner, a lot of us are thinking about family, food, and gratitude. But, gratitude is hard. We want to be grateful for what we have, and we know we should, but it’s easy to be focused on what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Many of us are so used to complaining, wishing, and dreaming, that we really don’t know how to practice gratitude.
I’m taking this opportunity to talk about gratitude, because it fits right in line with minimalism and simple living. The minimalist lifestyle teaches you to be content with what you have. Minimalism teaches you contentment when you figure out what you have that truly adds value to your life, and getting rid of (or minimizing) the rest. When you are content with what you have, you are grateful for each and every thing in your life. For more on minimalism, check out this post.
This quote hits the nail on the head: “When you love what you have, you have everything you need.” I don’t know who first said this, but whoever did is WISE.
Is it bad to want things? Not necessarily. But, don’t let the things you want make you forget the things you already have. When we obsess over things we want, we are unable to enjoy life. The only way we can enjoy life is if we choose to find meaning and joy in what we have now. Today. Not what we hope to have someday. And not when we think our life will be “better”.
“Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income.” Ecclesiastes 5:10
It’s so easy to have our eyes on everyone else around us. We think we know so much about other people, don’t we? Who are we kidding? We have no clue. We can look at people with their big houses, multiple vacations, and fancy cars and think they are obviously successful, happy, and enjoying their lives. But, that’s not necessarily, and often isn’t, true. We think that they are living our dream, and that makes us bitter, resentful, and not much fun to be around!
Please, please please. I’m begging you, and me, and all of us— stop longing for the life you think others are living and start enjoying the life you’ve been given.Stop longing for the life you think others are living and start enjoying the life you've been given. Click To Tweet
But what is life? And how do we enjoy it? First I’ll tell you what life isn’t. Life isn’t your stuff. Life isn’t your status. And, life isn’t your 401K.
Life is living. It’s experiencing, enjoying, and appreciating. It’s gratitude. Only a life of gratitude is really living, because without it we go through life missing out on everything in front of us.Life isn't your stuff, your status, or your 401K. Life is experiencing, enjoying and appreciating. Life is living.Click To Tweet
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is seeing what’s there instead of what isn’t. It’s appreciating it all, the small things in your life, as well as the big things. You can appreciate the rain for reminding you to slow down. And you can appreciate your friends for the encouragement, fun, support, and accountability they bring to your life.
Gratitude is being thankful. It’s thankfulness for what you have and showing that gratefulness towards others. When you are grateful for your coffee mug, you take good care of it. You wash it, protect it from chipping, you put it in a safe place, and you enjoy it with a hot cup of coffee. When you are grateful for your coffee mug, you recognize that without it you would barely be able to function in the morning. When you are thankful for your family, you prioritize time with them, you honor them, and you enjoy them. You recognize that without your family, you might be lonely and living only for yourself.
Gratitude is a choice. It’s something you can decide to do. You can choose to be grateful. Gratitude happens naturally, albeit sometimes slowly, when you focus on what you have instead of what you don’t. So, choose to focus on what you have. Choose to focus on what is right in front of you. Choose to focus on now.
And finally, gratitude is a practice. It’s something that you can make a part of your everyday life. Your routine even. You can practice gratitude in much the same way you could practice writing or figure skating. It takes time, it takes dedication, it take making it a priority. However, if you don’t see the importance of gratitude, you will never give it the attention it deserves.
Why Should You Practice Gratitude?
Here are 3 reasons you should practice gratitude:
- If you aren’t grateful, you aren’t enjoying your life. Life is passing you by, and you are missing it! Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you decide to enjoy your life. You can’t enjoy this moment if your mind and heart are in the next. Gratefulness will help you find satisfaction each and every day. You can't enjoy this moment if your mind and heart are in the next. Click To Tweet
- Gratitude makes a difference in your attitude. Gratitude causes you to be less stressed, more joyful, and more connected. It leads you to feel a connection to the present so that you give it your best, your all, and your affection. And gratitude pushes out bitterness, resentment, and jealousy. Instead of seeing what others have, you will see what others need. You will want to give back. You will want to show your appreciation in any way that you can.
- Gratitude leads to contentment. Eventually, you will be content with what you have. With your current status, money, possessions, relationships. This doesn’t mean that you will be happy with poor spending habits, excessive possessions, or broken relationships. But, it does mean that you will be able to see past the brokenness, and the imperfectness, to see what good is there. You have money, you have possessions, you have relationships. These are all good! You will be content enough with what you currently have to put in the effort to make those imperfect things better!
7 Ways to Practice Gratitude
There are so many ways you can begin practicing gratitude to make it a part of your lifestyle and begin to let it lead you to contentment and a giving heart. Here are just a few ideas:
1. Acknowledge you have more than you need.
Try writing down all of the things you have, including relationships, possessions, skills, and gifts.
2. Appreciate and honor what you have.
Take good care of what you have been given. Give these things adequate time and effort. Write down one way you will honor and prioritize what and who you love today.
3. Stop complaining.
When you catch yourself complaining, turn your focus to something you appreciate about your life right now. Even if it’s just your comfy chair.
4. Don’t compare.
This one is huge. Comparison is often what gets us in this mess of ingratitude in the first place. So stop looking at what you think others have better than you. Remember, they probably look at your life and think the same thing.
5. Put people before things.
When you put things before people, you dishonor them. Your priorities are out of whack. Prioritizing people causes you to be grateful for the people in your life, because when you spend time with them, you are reminded why they are so important to you!
6. Give sacrificially to others.
Help those in need. Seeing the needs of others helps you appreciate what you have. It allows you to live for more than just yourself. Practicing gratitude by giving back causes you to appreciate what you have enough to bless others.
7. Live in the moment.
Focus on what is happening around you right now. You will notice way more that you have to be thankful for when you are paying attention. Try practicing mindfulness, and you just might realize how much you’ve been missing. 😉
Some of my favorite mindfulness practices:
Mindful routine: Certain things are part of your routine because of how much you enjoy them. For me, I read every morning right when I wake up…with a cup of coffee, of course. In order to be more mindful while I’m reading in the morning, I try to pay attention to what is around me. I try to notice what the lighting is like. Is the sun up yet? What do I hear? What do I smell? I may notice the way the paper feels between my fingers and the way the coffee tastes on my tongue. Or I ask myself, what does the coffee feel like when it goes down my throat? Think of something that you like to enjoy every day, whether your beauty routine or a hobby, and try being mindful while you enjoy it.
Mindful eating: The next time you have a meal, turn off and put away any distractions (TV, phone, etc.). Eat slowly while you experience the smells, textures, and taste of the food you are eating. Notice what it is doing for your mood and your body.
Mindful relationships: When you’re spending time with a friend or family member, try to be present. Listen carefully to what they are saying and take an interest. Don’t check your phone. Make eye contact. Notice what their body language says about how they are feeling. Notice what your body language says about what you are feeling. Become aware of their tone, their facial expressions, their mood, and do the same for yours. If you are giving off a vibe unintentionally, adjust. But, really, just enjoy being in the other person’s presence.
What do you do to remind yourself to be grateful and thankful throughout your day? Share with us in the comments!