Category: Articles

8 Tremendously Important Ways That Gratitude Can Change Your Life

gratefulness

by Leo Babauta

If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, thank you, that would suffice. - Meister Eckhart

It's amazing how one simple, easy, positive action can change so much in a person's life.

One of the things that has had the biggest effect on my life is the realization of the power of gratitude. Simply giving thanks.

It has affected everything. It has made me a more positive person. A more productive person. A better achiever. A better husband and father and son and brother (at least, I like to think so). A happier person. I'm not perfect, but gratitude has made me better.

Can it change your life as well? I can guarantee it. You might not get the exact same benefits as I have, but there's no doubt in my mind that the simple act of gratitude on a regular basis will change anyone's life, positively and immediately. How many other changes can claim to be that quick, that easy, and that profound?

Let's take a look at some of the ways you can incorporate gratitude into your life, and how it will change your life. These are just some examples, based on my experience and the experiences of others I've talked with, and not all will apply to your life. Pick and choose the ones you think will work for you.

1. Have a morning gratitude session. Take one minute in the morning (make it a daily ritual) to think of the people who have done something nice for you, to think of all the things in your life you're grateful for. You won't get to everything in one minute, but it's enough. And it will instantly make your day better, and help you start your day off right. Can you think of a better use of one minute?

2. When you're having a hard day, make a gratitude list. We all have those bad days sometimes. We are stressed out from work. We get yelled at by someone. We lose a loved one. We hurt a loved one. We lose a contract or do poorly on a project. One of the things that can make a bad day much better is making a list of all the things you're thankful for. There are always things to be thankful for - loved ones, health, having a job, having a roof over your head and clothes on your back, life itself.

3. Instead of getting mad at someone, show gratitude. That's a major switch of attitude - actually a complete flip, so this isn't always easy to do. But I can promise you that it's a great thing to do. If you get mad at your co-worker because of something he or she did, for example, bite your tongue and don't react in anger. Instead, take some deep breaths, calm down, and try to think of reasons you're grateful for that person. Has that person done anything nice for you? Has that person ever done a good job? Find something, anything, even if it's difficult. Focus on those things that make you grateful. It will slowly change your mood. And if you get in a good enough mood, show your gratitude to that person. It will improve your mood, your relationship, and help make things better. After showing gratitude, you can ask for a favor - can he please refrain from shredding your important documents in the future? And in the context of your gratitude, such a favor isn't such a hard thing for the co-worker to grant.

4. Instead of criticising your significant other, show gratitude. This is basically the same as the above tactic, but I wanted to point out how gratitude can transform a marriage or relationship. If you constantly criticize your spouse, your marriage will slowly deteriorate - I promise you. It's important to be able to talk out problems, but no one likes to be criticized all the time. Instead, when you find yourself feeling the urge to criticize, stop and take a deep breath. Calm down, and think about all the reasons you're grateful for your spouse. Then share that gratitude, as soon as possible. Your relationship will become stronger. Your spouse will learn from your example - especially if you do this all the time. Your love will grow, and all will be right in the world.

5. Instead of complaining about your kids, be grateful for them. Many parents (myself included) get frustrated with their children. They are too slow to do things, they have a bad attitude, they can't clean up after themselves, and they pick their nose too much. Unfortunately, sometimes parents will communicate that frustration to their children too often, and the kids will begin to feel bad about themselves. Many parents have done this, and while it's not perfect, it's a part of parenthood. But there's a better way: follow the method above of calming down when you're frustrated, and thinking of reasons you're grateful to your child. Share these reasons with your child, and then take the opportunity to teach them instead of criticizing them.

6. When you face a major challenge, be grateful for it. Many people will see something difficult as a bad thing. If something goes wrong, it's a reason to complain, it's a time of self-pity. That won't get you anywhere. Instead, learn to be grateful for the challenge - it's an opportunity to grow, to learn, to get better at something. This will transform you from a complainer into a positive person who only continues to improve. People will like you better and you'll improve your career. Not too shabby.

7. When you suffer a tragedy, be grateful for the life you still have. I've recently lost an aunt, and my children recently lost a grandmother. These tragedies can be crippling if you let them overcome you. And while I'm not saying you shouldn't grieve - of course you should - you can also take away something even greater from these tragedies: gratitude for the life you still have. Appreciation for the fleeting beauty of life itself. Love for the people who are still in your life. Take this opportunity to show appreciation to these people, and to enjoy life while you can.

8. Instead of looking at what you don't have, look at what you do have. Have you ever looked around you and bemoaned how little you have? How the place you live isn't your dream house, or the car you drive isn't as nice as you'd like, or your peers have cooler gadgets or better jobs? If so, that's an opportunity to be grateful for what you already have. It's easy to forget that there are billions of people worse off than you - who don't have much in the way of shelter or clothes, who don't own a car and never will, who don't own a gadget or even know what one is, who don't have a job at all or only have very menial, miserable jobs in sweatshop conditions. Compare your life to these people's lives, and be grateful for the life you have. And realize that it's already more than enough, that happiness is not a destination - it's already here.

Everyday, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can. - Dalai Lama

The above article is printed here with the author's permission. Leo Babauta is the creative mind behind ZenHabits.net. Zen Habits is one of the top blogs on the Internet. It covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugally, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits. Leo is married with six kids. He lives on Guam, where he's a writer, a runner and a vegetarian.

Ten Simple Ways to Live a Less Stressful Life

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by Leo Babauta

If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you didn't ask me, I'd still have to say it. - George F. Burns

Stress is a major problem for many people: a hectic, stressful job, a chaotic home life, bills to worry about, and bad habits such as unhealthy eating, drinking and smoking can lead to a mountain of stress. If your life is full of stress like mine once was, there are some simple things you can do to get your life to a more manageable level.

Now, your life will probably never be stress-free - I don't think that's even desirable, even if it is possible, because stress is something that challenges us and helps us grow - at a reasonable level - but when stress gets too high, it causes us to be unhappy and unhealthy.

It wasn't that long ago when I was working long hours in a very stressful job with little time for my family, smoking and eating fatty foods and not exercising. I had a lot of debt and too many bills. I was unhappy and stressed out all the time. I was losing hair...okay, actually that was because of genetics, but still. I was pretty stressed.

So I made some drastic changes. I quit my job. I simplified my life. I quit smoking and started exercising and eating healthier. I began to eliminate my debt. And I learned some habits that, when applied on a daily basis, can really transform the way you live in a positive way.

How did I do all of this? One thing at a time. I didn't do a major overhaul of my life. I changed one habit a month, and gradually over the course of a year or two, changed a lot of things in my life.

I won't guarantee that all of these will work for you. They worked for me, but each person is different. Pick and choose the ones that will work best for you and give them a try. One at a time.

1. One thing at a time. This is the simplest and best way to start reducing your stress, and you can start today. Right now. Focus as much as possible on doing one thing at a time. Clear your desk of distractions. Pick something to work on. Need to write a report? Do only that. Remove distractions such as phones and email notifications while you're working on that report. If you're going to do email, do only that. This takes practice, and you'll get urges to do other things. Just keep practicing and you'll get better at it.

2. Simplify your schedule. A hectic schedule is a major cause of high stress. Simplify by reducing the number of commitments in your life to just the essential ones. Learn to say no to the rest - and slowly get out of commitments that aren't beneficial to you. Schedule only a few important things each day, and put space between them. Get out of meetings when they aren't absolutely essential. Leave room for down time and fun.

3. Get moving. Do something each day to be active - walk, hike, play a sport, go for a run, do yoga. It doesn't have to be grueling to reduce stress. Just move. Have fun doing it.

4. Develop one healthy habit this month. Other than getting active, improving your health overall will help with the stress, but do it one habit at a time. Eat fruits and veggies for snacks. Floss every day. Quit smoking. Cook something healthy for dinner. Drink water instead of soda. One habit at a time.

5. Do something calming. What do you enjoy that calms you down? For many people, it can be the get moving activity discussed above. But it could also be taking a nap, or a bath, or reading, or having sex (which can also be considered a get moving activity if you do it for longer than five minutes). Other people are calmed by housework or yard work. Some people like to meditate or take a nature walk. Find your calming activity and try to do it each day.

6. Simplify your finances. Finances can be a drain on your energy and a major stressor. If that's true with you, figure out ways to simplify things. Automate savings and bill payments and debt payments. Spend less by going shopping (at malls or online) much less. Find ways to have fun that don't involve spending money.

7. Have a blast! Have fun each day, even if it's just for a few minutes. I like to play with my kids - they take my mind off everything and are really hilarious. I also like to play sports (again, often with my kids). Board games are fun. Sex, again, can be a fun activity. Whatever you choose, be sure to laugh.

8. Get creative. Throwing yourself into a creative activity is another great way to de-stress and to prevent stress. I like writing, but others like to paint or play music or sketch or make pottery or do interior design or build things.

9. Declutter. This is a favorite of mine. I like to take 20-30 minutes and just go through a room, getting rid of stuff we don't use or need anymore. I look around at anything that's cluttering up a room, and get rid of it or find a better place for it. When I'm done, I have a nice, peaceful environment for work, play, and living. Do this a little at a time - it can be one of your fun activities.

10. Be early. I will admit that it's hard to be early when you have to get six kids ready (seriously - try it!). But being late can be very stressful. Try to leave earlier by getting ready earlier or by scheduling more space between events. Things always take longer than normal, so schedule some buffer time: extra time to get ready, to commute, to do errands before you need to be somewhere, to attend a meeting before another scheduled appointment. If you get somewhere early, it's good to have some reading material.

The above article is printed here with the author's permission. Leo Babauta is the creative mind behind ZenHabits.net. Zen Habits is one of the top blogs on the Internet. It covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugally, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits. Leo is married with six kids. He lives on Guam, where he's a writer, a runner and a vegetarian.

Twenty Things I Wish I Had Known When Starting Out in Life

LEO ART 2

by Leo Babauta

Everything has been figured out, except how to live. - Jean-Paul Sartre

I'm nearly 35 years old, and I've made my share of mistakes in my life. I'm not a big believer in regrets...and I have learned tremendously from every single mistake...and my life is pretty great. However, there are a few things I wish I had known when I was graduating from high school and starting out as an adult in life.

Would I change things? I'm not so sure. I might never have gotten into a mountain of debt, but then I wouldn't have learned the amazing satisfaction of getting out of it. I might have made better career choices, but then I wouldn't have all the work experience that makes me the blogger and writer that I am today. I might not have gotten married that first time, so that I would never have gotten divorced, but then I wouldn't have my first two beautiful wonderful incredible children from that first marriage.

I don't think I would change any of that. However, looking back, there are some lessons I've learned that I would probably tell my 18-year-old self. Do I share them now to share my regrets? No, I share them in hopes that younger men and women, just starting out in life, can benefit from my mistakes and my lessons.

What follows isn't an exhaustive list, but it's one that I hope proves useful to at least a few people.

I hope life isn't a big joke, because I don't get it. - Jack Handey

1. How to control impulse spending. If there's anything that got me in trouble financially, it's impulse spending. Buying clothes when I don't need them. Buying gadgets because I gotta have them. Ordering stuff online because it's so easy. Buying that new shiny SUV because...well, because it was going to help me with women. I'm not proud of any of that. I've learned to control my impulses, at least a little better. Now, I give myself some time to breathe. I think over my purchases, see if I've got the money, think about whether it's a need or a want. That would have been a useful tool 15 years ago.

2. You gotta stay active. I was in track, cross country and basketball in high school, but once I started college, the running and basketball began to slowly fade away. Not right away - I played pick-up basketball for years after high school. But even that went away, until I became sedentary. Playing with my kids outdoors winded me. And I began to get fat. I've reversed that trend, and am very active now, but I'm still trying to burn the fat I gained in those inactive years.

3. How to plan finances. I always knew that I was supposed to budget and track my spending when I became an adult. I just was too lazy to do it. And I didn't have a good idea of how to actually do it. Now, I've learned how to plan, and how to stick to that plan. Sure, I deviate from my plan, but I've learned how to handle that too. Maybe that's not a skill you can learn from book reading. You just gotta practice. Well, I hope to teach it to my children before they go out on their own.

4. Junk food will come back to bite you in the butt. Yeah, it wasn't just the sedentary lifestyle that got me fat. It was all the damn junk food too. I would eat pizza and burgers and Twinkies and sugar cereal and desserts and donuts and...well, you get the picture. As someone used to being able to eat whatever I wanted, it never seemed like it would be a problem. Bad health was something to worry about when you got old. Well, my jeans began to get way too tight, and to my horror, I climbed several pants sizes and developed a gut that only now is going away. I wish someone had shown me an "after" picture when I was young and downing the Big Gulp sodas.

5. Smoking is just dumb. I didn't start smoking until I was well into my adult years. I won't go into why I started, but it didn't seem like a problem because I knew I could quit anytime I wanted. Or I thought I could, at least, until several years later I gave it a go and couldn't do it. Five failed quits later and I realized with horror that my addiction was stronger than I was. Sure, I eventually beat the habit (quit date: Nov. 18, 2005) but it took a piece of my soul to do it.

6. Fund your retirement, son. And don't withdraw it. This piece of wisdom, and probably all the ones above, might seem blisteringly obvious. And they are. Don't think I didn't know this when I was 18. I did. I just didn't pay it serious attention. Retirement was something I could worry about when I was in my 30s. Well, I'm in my 30s now and I wish I could slap that little 18-year-old Leo around a bit. What money I could have invested by now! I had a retirement plan, but on the 3 occasions when I changed jobs, I withdrew that and spent it frivolously.

7. All the stuff you're doing that seems hard - it will be of use. This is the first one that might not be as obvious. There were times in my life when work was hard, and I did it anyway, but hated it. I did it because I had to, but boy did it stress me out and leave me exhausted. Hard work isn't as easy as I wanted it to be. But you know what? Every bit of hard work I did without knowing why I was doing it...it's paid off for me in the long run. Maybe not right away, but I'm using skills and habits I learned during those times of high stress and long hours and tedious work - I use them all the time, and they've made me into the person I am today. Thank you, younger Leo!

8. Don't buy that used van without checking it out closely. I thought I was being smart by buying used, but I didn't check it out carefully enough. That dang van had loads of engine problems, a door that nearly fell off when I was driving, a door handle that snapped off, a side mirror that fell off, no spare tire despite three tires that were ready to blow (and did), windows that didn't roll up, rattling noises, an eventual blown radiator...I could go on and on, but let's just say that it wasn't my best purchase. I still think buying used is smart, but check things out closely first.

9. That guy you're going to sell your car to? On a gentleman's agreement? He's not gonna pay you. I sold another car to a friend of a friend, who I was sure would pay me even if I had nothing in writing. That was smart. I still see the guy once in awhile on the road, but I don't have the energy to do a U-turn and chase after him.

10. Make time to pursue your passion, no matter how busy you are. I've always wanted to be a writer and get a book published. I just never had time to write. With a family and school and a full-time job, there just weren't enough hours in the day. Well, I've learned that you have to make those hours. Set aside a block of time to do what you love, cut out other stuff from your life that take up your time, and don't let anything interfere with that work. If I had done that 15 years ago, I could have 15 books written by now. Not all would be great, but still.

11. All that stuff that's stressing you out - it won't matter in five years, let alone 15. When things are happening to you right now, they mean all the world. I had deadlines and projects and people breathing down my neck, and my stress levels went through the roof. I don't regret the hard work (see above), but I think I would have been less stressed if I could have just realized that it wouldn't matter a single bit just a few years down the road. Perspective is a good thing to learn.

12. The people you make friends with are so much more important than your job or the things you buy. I've had a few jobs, I've bought a lot of things, and I've made a few friends over these last 15 years. Of those, the only thing that still matter to me are the friends. And I wish I could have spent more time with friends (and family) than on the other things.

13. All that time you spend watching TV is a huge, huge waste of time. I don't know how much TV I've watched over the years, but it's a crapload. Hours and days and weeks I'll never have back. Who cares what happens on reality TV, when reality is slipping by outside? Time is something you'll never get back - don't waste it on TV.

14. Your kids are going to grow up way faster than you think. Don't waste a minute. I just had an Oh My God moment recently. My oldest daughter, Chloe, is 14 going on 15 next month. I have three years left with her before she leaves my house and becomes an adult. Three years! I am floored by that single fact, because it really doesn't seem anywhere near enough time. I want to go back to my younger self and whack that younger Leo on the head and say Stop working so hard! Stop watching TV! Spend more time with your kids! These last 15 years with Chloe (and my other wonderful kids) have gone by much, much too fast.

15. Forget the drama. Focus on being happy. There have been many things that have happened to me, professionally and personally, that seem like the end of the world. And while these things were bad, they get blown up in our heads so that they become major drama. They caused me to be depressed from time to time. What a waste of time. If I realized that it was all in my head, and that I could be happy instead if I focused on the positive, on what I did have, and what I could be doing, I could have skipped all the moping about.

16. Pay more attention to blogs when you first hear about them; they're more than just journals. I first read about blogs seven or eight blogs years ago, but when I took a look at them they didn't seem like anything of interest, just some people's journals about stuff they read on the web. Why would I want to read those? I have my own thoughts about the web, but I don't need to share them with the world. I spent a lot of time on the Internet, on various sites and forums, but every time I happened upon a blog I would brush past it without interest. It wasn't until a couple years ago that I discovered what wonderful things they could be (I mentioned some of my early favorites in my list of influences). If I had gotten into blogging years ago, well, I wouldn't have been wasting all that time.

17. Speaking of which, keep a journal. Seriously. Your memory is extremely faulty. I forget things really easily. Not short-term stuff, but long-term. I don't remember things about my kids' early years, because I didn't record any of it. I don't remember things about my life. It's like a lot of foggy memories that I'll never have access to. I wish I had kept a journal.

18. Tequila is seriously evil. I won't go into details, but it should suffice to say that I had some bad experiences, and I'm not sure I learned very much from them or benefited in any way except to learn that tequila is the drink of the Devil.

19. Yes, you can do a marathon. Don't put this goal off - it's extremely rewarding. Running a marathon had always been a dream of mine since high school...something I wanted to do but thought was out of reach. Or if I ever did it, it would be years and years later. Well, I learned that it's not only achievable, it's incredibly rewarding. I wish I had started training when I was young and light and fit...I could have had some good finishing times!

20. All these mistakes you're going to make, despite this advice? They're worth it. My 18-year-old self would probably have read this post and said, Good advice! And then he would have proceeded to make the same mistakes, despite good intentions. I was a good kid, but I wasn't good at following advice. I had to make my own mistakes and live my own life. And that's what I did, and I don't regret a minute of it. Every experience I've had (even the tequila ones) have led me down the path of life to where I am today. I love where I am today, and wouldn't trade it for another life for all the world. The pain, the stress, the drama, the hard work, the mistakes, the depression, the hangovers, the debt, the fat...it was all worth it.

Let us so live that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry. - Mark Twain


 

The above article is printed here with the author's permission. Leo Babauta is the creative mind behind ZenHabits.net. Zen Habits is one of the top blogs on the Internet. It covers: achieving goals, productivity, being organized, GTD, motivation, eliminating debt, saving, getting a flat stomach, eating healthy, simplifying, living frugally, parenting, happiness, and successfully implementing good habits. Leo is married with six kids. He lives on Guam, where he's a writer, a runner and a vegetarian.