Do you ever think “If I just had more willpower, than I could…”? Fill in the blank here.
From dieting to spending less money, making changes that require us to hold back and use our willpower is difficult.
Research has shown using willpower for self-control often fails when people are attempting to make changes in their lives.
So, if willpower doesn’t work, what does?
Believe it or not, a gratitude habit will help you make changes and stick to your long-term goals better than willpower ever will.
One study showed that having a daily gratitude habit actually contributes to people’s feelings of well-being, which leads to a huge decrease in impatience, thus positively affecting financial and health decisions.
At the heart of the matter is our difficulty with controlling our desire for immediate gratification. Take dieting for instance. When you have those cookies sitting in your kitchen and your feel that desire to have one, it’s so hard to just leave them sit there and walk away. We want one right now! So we tell ourselves, “Just this one now, and I won’t have one later” or “Once their gone, I won’t have the temptation sitting there” (Hello, I’m guilty!).
It’s the same thing with spending money. You see that new shiny thing, you almost feel like it’s yours already, like the decision has been made for you. And that burning desire is tough to override. You want the new, shiny thing today, right now.
Change the Desires
Rather than grappling with your desire for immediate gratification, it’s infinitely easier to change the desires themselves. That is where gratitude comes in.
Gratitude helps us change our desires, suppressing the need for immediate gratification.
Simply feeling happy has not been shown to have the same effects. But an ongoing habit of gratitude can change everything.
Be grateful, spend less. This is gold to those of us trying to cut back on spending (or eating!).
If this really works, how do you cultivate a gratitude habit to help control spending? (Not to mention the myriad of other benefits gratitude can provide.)
How to develop a gratitude habit
Start with this video
Watch the whole thing. Trust me, you need to stick around to hear the child and elderly man speak (3:48). Gratefulness will be spilling from your pores after watching this, so watch it now. I’ll wait. It’s important stuff.
Recognize how fortunate you are
We all have problems that get us down from time to time, but the conveniences and opportunities we enjoy each day are things most people in the world never experience. Compare your situation to the world’s population here. You may be surprised at the results.
Laurie from The Frugal Farmer recently reminded us of how fortunate we are by sharing stories from those who lived through the Great Depression.
For a daily gratitude reminder, hang this on your refrigerator:
Start a daily gratitude habit
Use a gratitude journal to jot down three things you are grateful for each day (make it a habit by doing it at the same time each day – like when you brush your teeth). Your journal can be whatever you want it to be. Just write down three things, or expand on your day and why you are grateful. Do whatever feels right to you at the time; the most important step is to do it each day.
Start a tradition of gratitude with your friends and family. Go around the table at dinner and have each person say what they are grateful for that day. Send a text or email to a friend each day stating your gratitude. Share what you are grateful for with your kids or partner each night at bedtime.
Be grateful for the people in your life. Pick one or two people each day and let them know how much you appreciate them, either by telling them, calling them, or writing them a note.
Be kind each day. Say “please” and “thank you”, hold the door for others, and smile. This not only helps you feel good, but acknowledging others brings about mindfulness and strengthens relationships. Being kind also attracts other positive people into your life, thus spreading the gratefulness!
Use positive words. Positive words help you focus on the good in your life and limit negative thoughts and feelings. When you speak about the good, you are more likely to feel it (and so will others).
Try this: Vow not to complain for a day, or even a week. You may find this to be harder than you thought and you may not be able to completely stop it altogether (but here are some tips). When you catch yourself starting to complain, turn it around and figure out how you can be grateful for whatever it is you were going to complain about.
Ty over at Get Rich Quickish reminded us “How you spend your days is how you spend your life” and to find the joy in each and every day.
Surround yourself with grateful people
People who are grateful and happy in their own lives have a way of spreading their energy. If you are bombarded with negativity from your friends that happen to be unhappy in their own life, it’s going to bring you down too. Try to limit or distance yourself from the negative people in your life and instead choose to spend more time with people who focus on abundance. There is enough good in the world to go around.
Stop trying to keep up with the Joneses
Trying to constantly keep up with the Joneses is unproductive, but also breeds negativity and ungratefulness. Comparing yourself to others only brings you down. Focus on what you have, not what others have.
If you are trying to improve yourself or your situation, set your goals and do 10% better than you did yesterday, last week or last year, not better than someone else.
Deal with the hard times
When you find yourself in a bad situation, ask yourself what there is to learn from it. Most times, there is a lesson to be learned, though it may not always be apparent.
Ask: When I look back on this, what will I be grateful for? Expressing your gratitude during the hard times helps you tolerate and overcome hardships more easily.
Life is not always great and we cannot expect it to be. I love the Buddhist theory of 10,000 joys and 10,000 sorrows. The tough times will come, but they will also pass.
Get involved in a cause
There’s no better way to experience gratitude than to help those that are struggling in their own lives. Find a cause you are passionate about and help out on a regular basis.
Appreciate the simple things
There is beauty and goodness all around us, every single day. Simple things can bring the greatest pleasure – listen and look for them. A bird singing, a child laughing, the color and shape of the clouds, the warmth of the sun, a hot cup of tea and so much more.
Look at the sky. We so rarely look at the sky…The formation of clouds in the sky will never be the same that is right now. Open your eyes. Look at that.” – Louie Schwartzberg | TEDxSF
Want to spend less money and completely transform your life? Develop a habit of gratitude.
What do you do to express gratitude? Do you find you spend less when you are feeling grateful? Do you have any tips for developing a habit of gratitude?