Move Ahead, Stay Forward with Gratitude

Move Ahead, Stay Forward with Gratitude By, Melissa Miller

A Better Life

“This is good because…”. Those are the four words that changed my life. At the moment that I let that phrase run through my mind, I decided to make a change that would alter my future. I would start my business and intentionally focus forward in life.

Staying forward in life is moving ahead, with a positive mindset, to experience a richer life. Brene Brown talks about the difference in her life before and after she discovered a quote from President Theodore Roosevelt about daring greatly. I felt the light bulb moment when I heard this sentence in my head. I decided to stay forward-facing in life, and the benefits have been amazing. 

I had just walked out of my annual review for a job I excelled in. Also, I had been told, “we are staying flat this year.” No financial increase over the prior year. As I left, I actually felt great. I heard that sentence in my mind over and over. “This is good because you showed me how you value me…This is good because I know what to expect for the next twenty years… This is good because you lit a fire under me to build my business… This is good because I am not choosing to live a flat life.” I actually felt lighter and more energized leaving that meeting than I had when I walked in. Everything changed for me at that moment.  

I know exactly how this would have played out if I hadn’t said those words. I would have felt underappreciated and resentful. My performance would have suffered because I would have felt undervalued. Those things didn’t happen because I walked out with a clear head and thankful outlook. I continued to show up every day with a smile and a positive attitude. 

“This is good because…” sums up practicing gratitude for me. Finding positive in our lives. How did I get to that place? I was by no means a yogi or Zen master. I have always been a largely positive person who sees the glass as half full– but I didn’t consciously pursue gratitude. I wasn’t meditating or going on self-improvement retreats. I was just like most of us who wake up, live a good life, and go to bed to wake up and do it all over again. I didn’t have an actual gratitude practice to stay facing forward in life.

Why does gratitude work? 

  • It forces us to stay in the present. When you pause to say, “Thank you for this” or “I’m grateful for that,” you are living in the moment. You aren’t rehashing the past or being fearful of the future. You are experiencing the here and now.  
  • Appreciation makes us take stock of all the little and big things that are working in our lives. Similar to my example above, if it isn’t working, now it’s on your radar and has the potential to be changed.  
  • Gratitude makes us more resilient. We will come up against challenges daily in our personal and professional lives. Our ability to keep them in perspective, and move through them, continues to get easier.  

Benefits of Gratitude

The benefits of practicing gratitude continue to be shown in scientific studies. Gratitude lowers blood pressure, creates better sleep patterns, and improves cardiovascular health. It reduces depression and stress while increasing happiness levels. At work, gratitude improves employee retention, productivity, and happiness.

If you want to stay forward in life and reap the benefits of gratitude, how do you start? You begin to stretch and strengthen gratitude like a muscle. I work out most mornings, and practicing gratitude now feels similar to me. Also, I can literally imagine my gratitude levels and emotional wealth-getting stronger like my body. I didn’t start by journaling; I started with my mindset. Moreover, I would simply focus on positive thoughts running through my head. Like when I left the meeting. As I cultivated my gratitude practice, I added techniques proven to work by scientific study. As a result, my gratitude skills flourished. 

Moving Forward with Gratitude Action Steps

  • Journal each day.  Research by Dr. Robert A. Emmons and Dr. Michael E. McCullough asked three groups to write a few sentences weekly focusing on certain topics. Group one expressed things they were grateful for, the second group wrote about daily irritations, and the third group wrote on neutral events. After ten weeks, those who focused on gratitude were more optimistic, exercised more, and had fewer doctor visits.  
  • Set a reminder on your phone to go off a few times a day. Stop and name three things that are going well or working at that moment.
  • Write gratitude letters.  One study by Wong and Brown tracked 293 people who were in mental health counseling. The study found, compared with participants who wrote about negative experiences or only received counseling, those who wrote gratitude letters reported significantly better mental health four weeks and twelve weeks after their writing exercise ended. 
  • Tell people around you at work, home, or in your community thank you and something positive about what they are doing. Sharing gratitude benefits both the giver and the recipient. 

I don’t know what phrase, or words, will resonate with you. I’m not sure the specific sentence that could provide a lightbulb moment. However, if you want to live in the moment and stay forward in life, my suggestion would be to make them one of gratitude.