everyone's got an inner curmud geon, but the trick to preserving your well-being is to keep it on a short leash. When its grumbles and groans take up too much psychic space, your entire ecosystem gets thrown off balance. Luckily, there are lots of ways to transcend the complaining, dissatisfied you. According to studies, the conscious and meticulous act of reminding yourself to be grateful is actually medicinal. Thankfulness, it turns out, increases alertness, energy level, enthusiasm and determination, lowers stress and depression and is associated with better sleep.
Grateful people, research shows, do of course have sour or frustrated moods like everyone else. But they've got an edge when it comes to shifting their blues into more productive moods.
One of the best tools for cultivating appreciation is the weekly or daily gratitude journal. The ground rules here are that you don't compare your good fortune to others' lesser means - studies show that won't improve your emotional state - and that anything at all can be entered as a blessing, from your wonderful lover to the fact that you didn't run out of toilet paper last week. If you factor in the large gifts with the many small, so-called mundane ones, your list can be many pages long.
And the longer it is, the better the tonic, the greater your capacity to receive life's gifts and the more likely you are never to be a victim of life's circumstances.
What the experts say
"I look on gratitude and its opposite, entitlement, as opposite points on a continuum. People with a sense of entitlement believe the world owes them a living. They have difficulty being generous and giving. Gratitude is connected with generosity; if you see something as a kindness, a benefit, something you're fortunate to receive, that allows you to feel other people also deserve to receive. The generous, grateful person has a more progressive psychological stance. Entitled people always feel starved. I think it's better to feel benefited."
HOWARD BOOK , MD, associate professor in the department of psychiatry, University of Toronto, co-author, The EQ Edge
"Have gratitude for all things, including hardships and enemies. When you see everything and everyone as your teacher, you fill yourself at the core with this warm strength that is yours. To cultivate gratitude, sit quietly, be honest with yourself and say, 'This is how it is - these are the great things going on, these are the lousy things.' Embrace it all and be grateful; then you can act. If you're bestowed with something wonderful, with gratitude and compassion you can transform that gift into 10,000 gifts instead of just taking it for yourself."
LIDIA KULESHNYK , holistic health practitioner/consultant, Toronto
"Thoughts are so powerful. Whatever we hold in our mind will manifest itself. When we hold grateful thoughts, they manifest themselves in well-being, beauty, love and life to the greatest degree. If we're grateful for what we have, that opens up our consciousness, our willingness to receive all there is to receive."
DIANE JUNG , reiki master, massage therapist, licensed unity teacher (spiritual leader, Unity of the Kawarthas) "Gratitude is one of the easiest ways to feel deeply connected and peaceful, because it's about appreciating what is, rather than what is not. You can also be grateful for what's coming; that will draw it to you faster. The laws of attraction say that when you focus on something with joy or positive thoughts, that thing can't help but come to you. Writing down what you like about people or experiences is an instant uplifter. When you're upset (about a situation), ask, 'What is working about this?' That enables you to create solutions and move toward what you want.
JEANNA GABELLINI , Xtreme Abundance coach, Martinez, CA
"When you feel an erotic charge, you can gaze upon the person who awakens it and mentally, with awe, repeat a mantra of gratitude and praise. The erotic spark arises as a reminder that everyone's divine. Then gaze at the very next person (you encounter) and repeat a mantra of praise. People feel it, they light up, and they give right back, energetically. When I do this, I feel more open to others, more confident and sexy, and not constricted by mental boundaries of gender and physical appearance."
PATRICIA JOHNSON (VEENANAND) , Tantra teacher, Yorktown Heights, NY