Gratitude. The great attitude! It is both powerful and empowering.
It is an actual force that, when tapped into and practised as a discipline, can change our perspective and over time, our behaviour for the better. It is one of our greatest gifts, a secret weapon of sorts, that, when cultivated, takes us to greater, expanded heights of appreciation, responsibility and happiness.
As a present moment experience, gratitude is a conviction to stay anchored in the moment, to be grateful for what's happening "now." It takes us out of wanting (wanting and lack are related to unhappiness and increased anxiety), to responsibly accepting the conditions we find ourselves in at the moment.
Attitudes are the greatest force in helping us through the oscillations of life, the highs and lows, and gratitude is the most powerful of all attitudes. This happy, grateful frequency releases mood-altering hormones such as dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and norepinephrine and breeds positive results.
Negative, ungrateful attitudes (that block our view of the perfection of "now") generate failure, stress, lack and want. We are never satisfied.
Why is this so? Because everything is energy and therefore everything operates under the same laws. When we garden and plant beans, we expect beans to grow, and without surprise, they do. Our minds and life work in the same way.
Whatever we plant, we reap. So, we must plant the attitude of gratitude in the garden of our mind. We must plant it, nurture it and sow it when needed. We can never run out, it is a self-perpetuating force that grows as we focus on it and feed it more energy. The same way that negativism, defeatism, and depression breed and grow when we feed them energy!
Gratitude is empowering because it makes us conscious of our self-talk, our internal mind chatter and the resulting emotions generated. Since we can only change what we are aware of, this awareness empowers us to change at the level of our thoughts, where the controls are - where we are empowered to shift negative self-talk into positive self-love.
We are either grateful and appreciative or envious and harbouring regrets. We cannot embrace both emotions at once. Embracing the all-loving emotion of gratitude, buffers us from negative emotions that otherwise drive our anxiety. By intentionally living in gratitude, we draw to ourselves what we need to feel happy, peaceful and strengthened against this negativity.
Gratitude is also our spiritual connection because it is aligned with the frequency of love. It is the closest we can get frequency wise to our higher-spiritual selves. It is both a momentary exercise and a life-long commitment to a way of life and the obligatory first step we must take if we want a happy, peaceful, content life to bloom.
We must learn the vibration game. Just as Nikola Tesla states – "If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration."
How can we expect to grow in abundance if all we see/our focus is on lack? If we are focused on lack, we draw more of the same. How can we expect to heal ourselves to perfection when all we see is disease?
We must "see what it is we want to be" according to Gandhi, and that seeing begins with gratitude, acceptance and responsibility for where we are at – in the moment.
When we accept that we had the power to create our conditions, we are empowered to change them and not before.
Here's some ideas to help grow and cultivate the empowering attitude of gratitude:
Be mindful of your actions
Physical actions such as hugging and smiling are ways of expressing gratitude. They help strengthen positive emotions. We can always give a smile away…they are free to us but when genuine, are empowered to change someone's life. How can we be sure that a smile isn't exactly what's needed in the moment to shift someone's attitude from despair to hope? They are that powerful.
Create a gratitude journal
This is an empowering exercise that works for many people. Focus on what gifts (no matter how small or insignificant they may seem at the time) you've received during the day. Were you rewarded with an awesome view of the mountains as you came up over the hill tonight at sunset? Acknowledge it. Did your rose bush bloom today? Acknowledge it. We must learn to appreciate the gifts of the moment and write them down. This awareness will grow as we exercise and cultivate it.
Shift your perceptions
Avoiding stress in this fast-moving, ever-changing world of ours is impossible. We cannot avoid it, but what we can do is strengthen our resolve to manage it. Events happen, that's life. It's not the event that is affecting us.
The reality is, events are not good or bad in themselves. What seems "bad" for one, is a triumph for another. It is our reaction, our perceptions and belief about the event that upsets and causes chaos or joy in our lives. Living in gratitude eliminates any negative perceptions/beliefs and invites peace, happiness and a content life in.
Gratitude like anything else, is a skill that must be developed. It takes consistent, determined practise, especially in the beginning, to display a consistent feeling of gratitude. It must be developed and strengthened over time. But, the rewards we receive back, of self-empowerment and self-worth reflecting a happy life are well worth the time and energy spent.
■ Carolyn Hansen is co-owner of Anytime Fitness.