“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity…it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” Melody Beattie
It may not be immediately obvious how gratitude and abundance connect to minimalism. Here’s the thing. Gratitude and abundance are both mindsets, without which you will never live a happy life as a holistic minimalist. If you don’t figure out how to cultivate gratitude and abundance mentality in your lives no matter how much, or little, you own, it will never seem like enough. You will always be more or less dissatisfied with your life. That’s we’re going to take the time to break down some key ways to bring both gratitude and abundance mentality into your life in a lasting way.
34.1 Gratitude and Abundance – Two Sides of The Same Coin
“Acknowledging the good that you already have in your life is the foundation for all abundance.” Eckhart Tolle
Before getting started on the “how to’s” let’s get one thing clear. Gratitude and abundance are basically two sides of the same coin. You can’t really have one without the other. If you’re experiencing abundance and are aware of it then you are almost definitely going to experience gratitude. On the other hand, if you’re living in abundance and are oblivious of the fact, then you’re clearly not going to feel grateful for it. Similarly, if you focus on the things you’re grateful for every day you will start noticing all the subtle and less subtle forms of abundance in your life. So just know that when we talk about one or the other we’re always really talking about both!
34.2 Mindfulness: This Is Where It All Starts…
“Some people grumble that roses have thorns; I am grateful that thorns have roses.” Alphonse Karr
Your thoughts have a huge impact on your life. They affect everything from your moods to your physical and psychological health. Living with a gratitude and abundance mindset is a matter of shifting perspectives and changing the way you see and think about things. The most effective of all tools you can use to integrate gratitude practices into your daily life is through mindfulness and mental discipline…that is to say, the act of consciously coming back to gratitude in your mind whenever it starts going down pessimistic rabbit-holes.
Mindfulness practices, like everything else, are most effective when you can make them into a daily habit. Start your day off with whatever your gratitude practice is (we’ll get to a couple ideas below!)! Create visual cues for yourself so that you can be reminded throughout the day to come back to gratitude every now and then. Pen in 10 minute gratitude breaks during your day to simply sit, breathe and contemplate some things you feel profoundly grateful for. Anything you can do to make yourself stop everything else and just focus on gratitude on a daily basis is going to do a world of good for your overall outlook on life and your ability to truly appreciate the abundance around you.
34.3 Three Easy Daily Practices: Gratitude Journaling, Transforming Thought, Affirmations and Visual Cues…
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey
One of the easiest ways to start chipping away at your old ways of thinking to begin making gratitude (and therefore, abundance!) the center of your life is to start a gratitude journal. The simplest way to make this part of your daily routine is to keep a little notebook by your bed and to write a paragraph or two about things you’re grateful for as soon as you wake up in the morning. If you’re not a morning person and tend to get up right before you have to run out the door, well, you can either try and change that pattern (might not be a bad idea!) or you can carve out another 10-15 minutes in your daily schedule, during a specific break every day or before going to bed.
Doing your gratitude journal at the end of the day can actually be a great way of practicing mindfulness and transformation of your thought patterns. It forces you to look at your day in a new light and maybe even see things you might otherwise have complained about as positives! If you need to be convinced, according to psychologists such as Sonja Lyubomirsky at the University of California-Riverside,among others, keeping a gratitude journal and other gratitude exercises can increase your energy, and relieve pain and fatigue.
On that note, here’s another simple practice worth trying that can help transform your thinking. Set aside a time to reflect and write about all the different situations in your life that were challenging at the time…but which actually created positive outcomes in the mid or long-term! It’s amazing when you look back over your life at the various things that wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t gone through X thoroughly challenging event, be it an unexpected move, a divorce, not getting in to some program or job you really thought was perfect for you…etcetera. This can be a really powerful practice if you’ve never taken the time to look at things in this way before. It can even change the way you perceive events as they actually happen to you in future! Because really, who knows what the future holds? Any challenge you encounter can be a blessing in disguise if you’re able to perceive the silver lining.
Another easy practice which is a really good idea if you’re someone whose emotions are more triggered by visual cues is to create a series of …visual cues! -to remind you of things you’re grateful for throughout the day. It could be as simple as photos of your family or a good friend. Or you could get more detailed and make a little collage with different elements of your life that you appreciate and which unlock feelings of gratitude in you. You can also use symbols, draw or make a visual collage for your computer desktop. Whatever works for you!
A similar strategy is that of gratitude affirmations, where you put notes here and there reminding yourself, in words, of things you’re grateful for, or even simply reminding yourself to take a minute and think of something you’re grateful for! The idea behind all of these little tricks is essentially to get you to focus on and feel gratitude on a more regular basis. Maybe there’s a paragraph from a book, a piece of a poem or a quote from someone inspiring that helps you access that place. It’s up to you to fill in the blanks with content that allows you to get to that place of sincere gratitude every day!
34.4 How Helping Others Helps You
“If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap. If you want happiness for a day, go fishing. If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune. If you want happiness for a lifetime, help somebody.” Chinese proverb
A lot of us have had it drummed into our heads that giving is “better” than receiving and that we “have to” give in order to be a “good person.” This can be more or less motivating depending on your personality. The thing is, when you look beyond all the moralizing, giving to others is actually truly good…for you!
According to Jenny Santi, philanthropy advisor and author of “The Giving Way to Happiness: Stories and Science Behind the Life-Changing Power of Giving,” “through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex…Helping others may just be the secret to living a life that is not only happier but also healthier, wealthier, more productive, and meaningful.”
Aside from the fact that giving to others (be it through volunteering, charity to a specific cause or just babysitting your friends kids once a week!) is good for your health and makes you feel good, if you do it right it can also help you recognize the abundance in your life. The important thing is to not overstep your actual capacity and give in ways that make you feel stressed or depleted. The main element that causes the positive effects of giving is the amount of “love” or positive energy you put into the act of giving. It’s the altruism involved, not the actual amount of time or money. The feeling of having enough to be able to share some of that surplus with others (be it time, money or material goods!) is truly one of the best ways to be reminded regularly of our connection to abundance.
34.5 Words Can Influence Your Genes!
“Gratitude is the healthiest of all human emotions. The more you express gratitude for what you have, the more likely you will have even more to express gratitude for.” Zig Ziglar
You’ve probably heard that words are powerful, but did you know that they can actually affect your brain functions? In their book “Words Can Change Your Brain,” (a book outlining 12 strategies to build relationships based on what they call “Compassionate Communication”) neuroscientists Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Robert Waldman write: “a single word has the power to influence the expression of genes that regulate physical and emotional stress.” Words with positive connotations such as “peace” and “love,” can alter the expression of genes, strengthening areas in our frontal lobes and promoting the brain’s cognitive functioning. According to the authors, they trigger the motivational centers of the brain into action and build overall resiliency.
While their work is focused on how these facts can be used to enhance trust and effective communication, it’s essential to be aware of the effect of words on your own brain, body and state of being! Think about it! If you continue using negative language with yourself, even if you’re just thinking more in negative terms then in those of gratitude and abundance you’re limiting your personal potential and overall health in significant ways.
As a result of the power of words another transformative gratitude practice is that of thanking people, either in person or in writing. Take the time to write a thank you letter to someone who has had a major positive impact on your life. Not only will this increase the flow of gratitude you feel, it will almost definitely deepen your connection with said person and can have a huge positive impact on their lives in return!
34.6 Action Point Summary – Here’s What You Need to Do Now!
“None is more impoverished than the one who has no gratitude. Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves, and spend without fear of bankruptcy.” Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
Practice mindfulness. Create a daily gratitude practice. Simply meditating on things you’re grateful for, at least once a day, is a great place to start.
- Start a gratitude journal.
- Make written or visual gratitude reminders/affirmations.
- Transform your perspective. Write a list of all the challenges you’ve faced that have turned out to have a positive impact on your life further down the road. Be grateful for the obstacles that led you to where you are now!
- Help others! Do some kind of volunteer work or simply help out close friends or family in a regular way.
- Remember the power of words, on your mind and on others around you.
- Write a thank you letter to someone important in your life, currently or in your past!