How to Practice Gratitude to Improve Happiness
This article covers why and how you should practice gratitude. We also explore a technique used for thousands of years by the most intelligent minds; negative visualization. At the end of the article we offer a guided exercise.
It’s no secret that we get used to things.
The most epic night of your life? You’re back to normal in a few days.
Solve a problem? There’s going to be an indefinite amount of new ones.
Whether it’s good or bad, we tend to get used to everything. Turns out this is a human tendency called hedonic adaptation.
Hedonic adaptation is why we quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative life events.
We achieve great feats and they quickly become normal, causing us to unfairly beat ourselves up over progress or success.
This tendency causes us to lose sight of the energy we can create just from being alive, just from noticing our surroundings.
With so much surplus in our world, hedonic adaptation causes us to be ungrateful for what we already have.
Fortunately, there are two powerful antidotes for this tendency.
Gratitude practice and Negative Visualization.
Gratitude practice trains your brain to focus on your gifts. Your body being a gift, people in your life are gifts, the planet is a gift. These are all given to you and you have absolutely nothing to do with it.
Practicing gratitude is shining light on your gifts. It’s highlighting what you already have.
Your brain wants to be grateful, the practice is showing your brain what it wants.
Now, negative Visualization further puts your life into perspective.
Imagine if you knew you were doing something for the last time, wouldn’t you appreciate it more? Negative visualization cultivates this feeling in our minds.
When negative visualization and gratitude are combined, it creates an energy in your body that changes your life. You suddenly become grateful to be alive. You recognize opportunities more easily. It creates the best version of yourself.
For example, imagine you lost your access to clean water, and you had to travel to another city to pick up drinking water. This is very much a reality for millions of people today. So imagine you are living their reality.
And then boom, you’re back to you right now. You probably have a water bottle close by!
That is a negative visualization.
A gratitude exercise would be to write down all the reasons why you’re grateful for your water. It nourishes your body, quenches your thirst, gives life to plants and food, etc.
These are two different practices that cultivated the same type of gratitude energy. A contagious energy that changes the way you feel about your life.
Which leads us into our exercise, inspired by both negative visualization and gratitude practice to cultivate your own gratitude energy.
The Inconvenient Gratitude Exercise:
Pick 5 things that you consider to be inconvenient and write down one reason why you are grateful for each one. Go into as much detail as possible.
- I’m grateful for nagging insects because they allow life on the planet.
- I’m grateful for long lines at the grocery store because the groceries are fresh and readily available.
Note: this exercise is best completed with a friend. When finished, share your lists with each other
To explore more ways to practice gratitude, check out 12 instant ways to practice gratitude.