When you get stuck in traffic and arrive at your destination late, do you focus on disappointment due to the tardiness – or do you feel grateful that you weren’t in the accident that caused the traffic backup and none of your fellow drivers struck your vehicle to make up for lost time?
When you arrive at a restaurant and find that your table isn’t ready despite your reservation, do you focus on the delay or do you take advantage of the extra time to socialize with your friends?
Do you notice it and appreciate it when your picnic isn’t rained out, or when the new recipe that you tried comes out right, or when you go for a hike and go further than you expected even though you come back tired and sore.
Gratitude is a choice. Almost every time that you have a chance to feel appreciation and gratitude, you also have the choice of focusing on more negative aspects of the scenario or ignoring something that could be appreciated – like time spent with friends or the beauty of nature or just time to relax.
The field of Positive Psychology has done much to make the world aware of the concept of gratitude. Many people now keep a gratitude journal or do the “What Went Well” exercise in which they record positive experiences on a daily or weekly basis. Whether you use a formal approach to expressing gratitude or not, the critical thing is to notice those positive things that happen to you every day. Don’t complicate the process by only looking for big things to be grateful for, and then becoming disappointed when they don’t occur. Small things count; nice weather; good service in a restaurant or store; and arriving at your destination without mishap are all opportunities for feeling grateful.
Once you get accustomed to looking for situations for which you are grateful, you will be surprised to find how many are out there. Making gratitude a choice leads to it becoming a habit – and you will be surprised at how good it makes you feel to have gratitude as a regular part of your life.