How to Use Gratitude to Change Your Life

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I used to be the typical person who complained about everything. Life kept hitting me at every opportunity. Nothing I undertook worked out for me. I felt like a failure. As the song says, “There are three things in life: health, money, and love.” Well, I had none of the three. And that created frustration inside me. I walked through life bitter, and worst of all, I had no desire to get better. I said I wanted to change my life, but that was a lie. I did nothing to do it. When you get into a loop of negativity, victimhood becomes your comfort zone.

For a long time, I was going the wrong way until one day, my mother asked me to pick her up from work. When I arrived, she told me she would be an hour late and that I could wait for her in the TV room. My mother worked in a nursing home for nuns. I remember it as if it were yesterday: there I was, waiting for my mother, surrounded by octogenarians watching a mass on television, and of all the people there, I was the one with the worst face. A nun approached me, and without asking me what was wrong, she said a phrase from the bible.

“Whoever has will be given more, and he will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what he has, will be taken from him.”—Matthew 13:12.

He didn’t tell me any more than that. But I will not forget the smile on the nun’s face as she said it to me. For a long time, I reflected on that phrase without understanding. One day, I told the anecdote to a psychologist friend of mine. He thought the nun wanted to say that we become to which we pay attention.

My friend told me that many scientific studies supported the power of gratitude. Since then, I have started to practice it, and I don’t want to sound like a Law of Attraction Guru. But since I have become more grateful, my life has changed 360 degrees. Today, I am happy.

The Science Behind Gratitude

After talking to my friend, I thought I had nothing to lose. I started researching on the internet about gratitude: I read studies from the world’s leading universities and articles about the science of gratitude, attended conferences, watched TED Talks on YouTube, and even read the book The Art of Happiness by the Dalai Lama. And after assimilating all the information, I decided to implement it in my life.

I started with something simple. I read a Harvard article called Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier and put it into practice in my way.

The article discussed, among other studies, gratitude research conducted by psychologist Robert A. Emmons of the University of California and Dr. Michael E. McCullough of the University of Miami.

The study asked participants to write a few weekly sentences on specific topics. For the experiment, they divided people into three groups. The first group writes about things they were grateful for that happened to them during the week. A second group wrote about what affected them most during the week. And a third group wrote about how their week had been, done in a neutral tone.

After ten weeks, the study concluded that the group who wrote about gratitude was more optimistic and felt better. They exercised more and went to the doctor less than the second group.

To replicate the study, I wrote about what I was grateful for each day at the end of the workday. At first, it would only be a ten-week trial, but it’s been years, and I’m still doing it.

The change was mind-blowing: I felt better mentally, I slept better, and the addictions I had been carrying began to lose power over me. I felt like living. I was more physically active and socially receptive. I experienced so many improvements that I created an emotional writing course in Spanish that more than two hundred people have already taken.

Something as simple as being aware of the good things we have around us every day can change our lives forever. It doesn’t matter if you are going through difficult times. If you practice gratitude, you will notice how your life changes for the better.

How to Learn to Feel Grateful

The good news is that gratitude is a trainable habit. You don’t need to feel good initially to practice it. And it doesn’t matter if your problems are financial, it’s free.

  • Start a gratitude journal. Set aside a notebook for this activity. Write in it every day for at least 10 minutes about things you can be grateful for. It doesn’t have to be big things. It could be that the sun came out or the food was to your liking. The point is to focus your attention on what you are grateful for. Try to set aside those ten minutes to write every day and write in a place where no one can disturb you, with the TV off and the phone in airplane mode. Leave that notebook always in sight. And if you feel bad, review it and realize you have many reasons to keep going.
  • Write a thank-you letter. If you’ve become estranged from someone you care about, try sitting down and writing a thank-you letter. Try sitting down and writing a letter to that person thanking them for all the good things you have shared and expressing your feelings. You don’t have to send it. It’s something you do for yourself. Writing letters of gratitude makes you see things from a different perspective, and every time you get angry with the recipient of that letter, you will more easily remember the good things that bring you together.
  • Pray. Whether you believe in God, Buddha, or the universe, the important thing about praying is the communion between your conscious and subconscious selves. Writing may not be your thing, or you may not have the time, but you can always take ten minutes before bedtime to give mental thanks for those little things that helped you get through the day.
  • Meditate twenty minutes a day. If you can’t do twenty minutes, start with five and increase by one minute each day until you get there. Feel gratitude and hold it for fifteen or twenty minutes while meditating. Try not to judge your thoughts and focus on experiencing the pleasant feeling of being grateful.

These four techniques are powerful. Practicing them

for a while each day separates your focus from the negative. It allows you to reflect on the positive. Use the one you prefer (I still use the gratitude journal) or all at once and persist. After ten weeks, you will notice changes in your life.

This article has helped you if you are going through a difficult time. Remember that you are not alone; we all go through difficult times, and together, we can overcome them.

A virtual hug.


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