Perhaps the best kept secret of all time, “the root of happiness is gratitude”. This is so true as it’s impossible to feel grateful and unhappy at the same time.
It's a little sad to realize as the majority of the population are so money focused. Enough is never enough as they struggle to “keep up with the Joneses”. It’s a recipe for unhappiness, especially for anyone on a fixed budget.
Further exacerbating matters is our daily diet of sensationalized news. We’re bombarded with negativity from every direction with the world seemly headed to hell in a hand basket. The net effect is we struggle to find joy in even the simplest of things.
To address this, the 7 proven ways to cultivate gratitude for a happier retirement provides strategies to rise above all this clutter. First, let’s look at some of the surprising benefits.
Benefits Of Gratitude
Especially in retirement, becoming more grateful for what you have, as opposed to what you don’t, has numerous benefits. Countless studies underscore positive effects on health, relationships and overall well-being.
Improved Health and Longevity
Research by Positive Psychology, reveals the correlation of happiness with longer healthier lifespans. With the increased focus on healthy aging, this is good news for retirees.
One of the biggest factors is reduced stress which can lead to better sleep, lower blood pressure and an improved immune system. With less stress, you’re more relaxed and better able to appreciate everything around you.
Further to this, Psychology Today found thankfulness is an effective means of reducing anxiety and negative self-talk. The power of the mind shouldn’t be underestimated and a positive outlook promotes a happier healthy life.
Who would have thought feeling more grateful would strengthen our relationships?
Actually, it makes perfect sense. After all, who doesn’t want to be around someone who’s kind, upbeat and genuine? Especially when you know they appreciate you. Yet, all too often we never express these sentiments with those closest to us.
"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it."
William Arthur Ward
Much like a flower garden, relationships wither and die when neglected. Only when tended, do they bloom and prosper. For further insights into friendships, see our article, How to Make Friends in Retirement
Well-Being And Happiness
Findings from Harvard Health state “gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness”. Considerable other research further supports this finding along with enhanced overall well-being.
Further to this, research from Psychology Today reveals thankfulness is a strong way to reduce anxiety and negative self-talk.
There’s no question of the many benefits; the challenge becomes what are the ways to cultivate gratitude for a happier retirement?
1. Maintain An Attitude of Gratitude
Popular advice is to “count our blessings”. While it may work for some folks, most of us are caught up in our daily activities and this falls by the wayside. In short, we’re all busy, our attention is elsewhere and we tend to take things for granted.
To get started, think of everything you’re grateful for. This could be family, friends, health or anything else you cherish. You might be surprised at how many blessings are already in your life. The point is we often overlook the very things most important to us.
The next step is making gratitude part of a daily reminder. Some folks find inspiration by placing a placard on a wall. Others might prefer setting a few moments aside each day, such as over their morning coffee or before bedtime, to reflect.
When you can think of something you’re truly grateful for each day, it begins to change your overall outlook.
2. Look For the Silver Lining
Life isn’t always fair and sometimes things don’t turn out the way we want. People let us down or events arise, such as getting stuck in traffic. We all know how frustrating that can be. Then there could be major life events such as job loss, divorce, health issues or even worse.
Inevitably, there’ll always be setbacks. The majority of the time we feel powerless with little or no ability to change the outcome. As we get older, we become more vulnerable to events beyond our control. This can result in sadness, loss and even bitterness.
The truth of the matter, the only thing we really have control over is how we choose to react. Some folks wallow in their misery and dwell on how unfair everything is. The better alternative is to find some way of moving forward and not spiral down.
A simplified example could be getting in a car accident. The vehicle is a write-off and its pretty hard to view this in a positive light. Perhaps the silver lining is, thankfully, there were no injuries. While it still sucks, by shifting perspectives the negativity can be lessened.
This can be applied to other situations where there may be lessons learned or new opportunities arise. While not every cloud has a silver lining, finding something positive is better than being miserable.
3. Surround Yourself with Positive People
Another key to developing a more grateful mindset is surrounding yourself with positive people. These are those folks who make you feel good and are a genuine delight to be around.
It’s worth noting you may have identified these individuals as being important to you in your daily life. If so, why not share this with them? When completely genuine, it’s one of the greatest compliments.
While it might catch them off guard when you express how much you value them, how can they not be flattered? This, in turn, will likely deepen your friendship.
At the other end of the spectrum, toxic relationships should be minimized or eliminated, when possible. Sometimes they can’t be avoided such as a sister-in-law or other family member. Be aware their negativity can be draining and exhausting.
4. Kindness Counts
In our dog-eat-dog world, often, basic human kindness seems lacking. Something as simple as a kind word or genuine compliment can make a big difference in someone’s day.
For instance, say you’re standing in line and the person behind you is wearing a beautiful sweater. Why not let them know it looks great on them? Not only would they be flattered, it’ll also boost your mood and make you feel good.
Research by the Daily Case tells us giving a compliment is one of the most effective ways to increase our own happiness and gratefulness. In addition, this creates a ripple effect of positivity as kindness is contagious (think of "pay it forward").
In a similar vein, random acts of kindness also spread joy. These need not be extravagant gestures, simply something which helps others. There’s no expectation of reciprocation as it’s something you’re doing out of the goodness of your heart.
Simply put, living with kindness makes the world a better place and helps cultivate gratitude for a happier retirement.
5. Give Back to Others
Beyond the fact it’s a good thing to do, a number of studies suggest giving back to others helps shift our focus from ourselves to others. By doing so, it helps us recognize all the blessings and privileges each of us have.
According to the National Institute of Health, generosity to others activates regions in the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust. Endorphins are released increasing positivity and creating a “warm glow” effect.
Furthermore, seeing the impact of helping others creates a sense of satisfaction. We may feel grateful for our ability to make a difference. This in turn reminds us of our resources, opportunities and relationships which enables us to make a positive contribution to someone else’s life.
Giving back to others can be very fulfilling. Several ways of doing so include:
In addition to helping others, this can be an opportunity to expand your social network, keep active and even provide a sense of purpose.
6. Forgive Yourself and Others
One of the greatest blocks to feeling grateful is not practicing forgiveness. Everyone makes mistakes or handles a situation in a less than stellar fashion. Beating ourselves up, feeling unworthy or judging others is counter productive. This is why it’s critical to forgive ourselves and others.
If it was something you said or did, you might wish you’d behaved differently. Instead of dwelling on it, you’ll likely be more mindful the next time round. Depending upon the situation, it might be appropriate to apologize or make amends.
When it comes to those who care about us, seldom do they act with malicious intent. Everyone can have an off-day or be unaware of the effect of their words or actions. The choice is yours whether it’s worth bringing up or to let the matter slide.
Regardless, nursing a grudge or self recriminations robs you of joy and can create bitterness.
7. Gratitude Journal
One of the best ways of cultivating gratitude is through a journal. It forces you to notice and capture even those small areas you might otherwise overlook. This changes your mindset and conditions you to note everything around you.
Over the next month or so, you might find yourself looking for things you’re grateful for. These could range from something as trivial as freshly mowed grass to a whole new appreciation for an old friend. In short, you're being present in your life.
Another advantage of a journal is reminding yourself of the good if you have a few off days. This is when scrolling back and re-reading a few entries is a wonderful way to raise spirits.
The traditional journal option is pen and paper which works well for some folks. Alternatively, according to Budding Optimist, there’s at least 11 free apps which develop gratitude to make you happier.
Closing Thoughts on Ways to Cultivate Gratitude for A Happier Retirement
There’s a lot of wisdom in “the root of happiness is gratitude”. In our busy world, the majority of the population take things for granted. For the most part, they consider themselves content with their lives. Unwittingly, they’re robbing themselves of the opportunity to achieve greater happiness.
Retirement can be the best years of your life. Yet, they can also be fraught with unexpected changes, health and/or financial concerns. The benefits of becoming more grateful can lead to a longer, healthier and happier life.
A daily gratitude ritual shifts your perspective. Even the smallest of things can take new significance as you open yourself to all that’s good around you. That’s not to say life won’t have it’s ups and downs. This will require dealing with setbacks and, when possible, finding that silver lining.
If you so choose, cultivating gratitude will become a life long journey. Friendships will grow and deepen, you’ll become kinder and more forgiving and make more of a difference to others. Getting started is the most difficult part which is where journaling can be so powerful.