The Transformative Power of the Gratitude Habit

There’s a small habit that I practice, that can turn difficult situations into much better ones — and it won’t surprise you. It’s the habit of gratitude.

This is such a simple habit, and it’s one that we often forget to practice. But when we do, it can transform our entire perspective, and with it our whole life.

Let me give you an example. About 10 years ago, I remember being caught in a rainstorm and being soaked, and also feeling generally stressed about being broke and hating my job and unhappy with my health. I was a bit depressed about it all, actually.

Then I decided to make a mental list of everything I was grateful for, right there in the rain. It was a long list, and while I can’t remember everything on it, some of the things I remember include:

I’m married to a beautiful, loving, supportive wife.
I have five wonderful kids (at the time — now I have six).
I am employed.
I am relatively healthy (maybe I was overweight, but I didn’t have chronic illness or pain).
I have loving family (parents, siblings, extended family) who I love dearly.
I live on a tropical island where the rain is actually refreshing when you’re sweating from the heat (I now live in northern California, but I was on Guam at the time).
I am alive.
I can taste delicious food, smell flowers, see art, hear music. What miracles!
I have friends.
I can run.
I can love.
I can pick mangoes from the huge tree in my yard.
I can read novels, my dearly beloved novels!
I am not starving, homeless, destitute, alone, destroyed by a natural disaster.

The list was probably 4-5 times as long, but you get the idea. The things I was taking for granted were now put front and center before me. The things I was feeling bad about didn’t go away, but they were put in perspective. They were blended with more powerful elements of my life into a mix that is ultimately true beauty and love.

Yes, there are bad things in my life, and it’s OK to feel bad about them. But it’s also important to remember the rest of my life, and to remember that even the bad things make life as complex and interesting as it is. Life would be boring without challenges!

The transformation of how I felt about my life, in that moment in the tropical downpouring rain, was really remarkable. All from making a simple list.

I’ve used this process hundreds of times since then, and it transforms everything:

When I’m feeling mad at someone, I can try to see what about them I’m grateful for.
When I procrastinate with a project, I can look at why I’m grateful to be able to work on that project.
When I get injured or sick, I can remember that I’m grateful just to be alive.
When I lose a good friend, I can grieve, but also be grateful for the time I had with them, and all that they gave me.
When something bad happens while traveling, I remember to be grateful for traveling at all, and that these challenges are what make the travel an adventure.
When someone doesn’t like what I do, and criticizes me, I can be grateful they care enough to even pay attention. Attention is a gift.

I’d like to make a small recommendation that could be powerful if you often forget to practice gratitude: start a small daily habit.

Just a few minutes per day of journaling, meditating on gratitude, or just thinking about what you’re grateful for in life. Do it every day, with a reminder, and see if it changes anything.

Don’t rush through it, don’t do it mindlessly, really try to feel gratitude for everything you list. Feel the amazingness of the things in your life.

I dare you to be complacent about life after doing that.

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