The Effect That Practicing Gratitude Has on Your Finances

I recently finished Deepak Chopra’s 21-Day Meditation Experience on gratitude. If you’ve ever heard the expression “It’s simple, but it’s not easy,” this describes my experience with incorporating more gratitude and less complaining in my life. In other words, this program taught me how to focus on the glass being half full instead of half empty.

I am a fairly grateful person by nature. My favorite holiday, in fact, is Thanksgiving — it’s the only holiday with a focus on gratitude and love, as opposed to “stuff.” Chopra suggests, though, that our nature should be one of gratitude most of the time — not just during fleeting moments of thanks.

This notion made me think about the relationship between money and gratitude. Most of us don’t live simple lives anymore. We live in a very fast-paced, tech-intense world where it’s like swimming upstream to not get caught up in comparing what we have and what we’ve accomplished with others. This comparison cycle becomes further amplified in social media settings, where everyone tends to share only the best moments of their lives. When you add in the pressure of rising costs of living for most of us, our focus can easily shift to what we don’t have. But what if we were to fight these pressures, and shift our attention to all that we do have?

Science Daily describes something called the “quantum observer” effect: By the very act of watching, the observer affects the observed reality. Although the “law of attraction” is controversial, its origin derives from this scientific tenet. It is interesting to consider whether we can affect our own reality by changing our thoughts about it — a concept many philosophers and physicists are now debating. Could something as simple as turning our attention to what we are grateful for, right now, alter our lives?

You can’t argue this phenomenon being at play when we appreciate another person. When I am grateful for people who are helping me — for example, waitstaff in a restaurant — I notice that they usually go out of their way to assist me, and almost always enjoy the appreciation in the moment. When I waited tables in my early adulthood, I knew this to be true: I wanted to minimize my time with the rude guests, while I went out of my way for the people who were nice and appreciated me. A truly kind table of people could make my entire night. The same concept applies today with clients: I think most people find their work most fulfilling when working with people who appreciate what they do. Thanking another human creates positive ripples of goodwill, so why wouldn’t it work to practice this internally?

Logic dictates that allowing our thoughts to ruminate on the positive things that are working in our lives — such as having a roof over our head, enough money to pay bills every month, an enjoyable job (or at least a stepping stone to an enjoyable career), and enough delicious food to eat — would certainly be stress- and anxiety-alleviating. Beyond these finance-focused blessings, we can also focus on our health, love in our life, and other non-material wealth that we might typically take for granted.

Focusing on what we don’t have shows up in opposing behavior that can be damaging to our financial health. This opposing behavior can include buying things we don’t really need or can’t really afford (hint: if you don’t pay off your credit cards each month, you may be doing this); wishing things were different; and comparing ourselves to the “Joneses.”  When I was financially counseling government employees last year, one thing I heard a lot was that people were, in fact, spending money on expenses such as houses, cars, and expensive birthday parties for their children in an effort to “keep up.” After hearing this several times, I wanted to shout from the rooftop, “The Joneses don’t exist! Everyone’s in debt competing with an illusion!”

Being grateful does not involve comparison. It’s a personal matter that involves only you.

Being grateful takes place in the present moment — what are you grateful for right now?

Mark Twain famously said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” Being grateful should feel good, and is a helpful antidote to needless worry. Being grateful can be as easy as taking a deep breath and enjoying this very moment.

You know I like starting things with a simple step, and gratitude is no different. Start with one thing, and see where it takes you. Attempt to get to the point where the scale is favoring the grateful thoughts. To be exact, I consider 51 percent to be this tipping point. I know some people keep a gratitude journal — writing down several things they are grateful for at bedtime. Others incorporate gratitude into their prayers or meditation. You could mentally list some things you appreciate while walking your dog, or while driving.

Whatever you decide works for you, after a month of practicing, check in with yourself. Have you noticed any positive changes in your money and your life? I’d love to know how your experiment with gratitude goes. Let me know on Facebook, Twitter, or in the comments below.

Addie McHale is a member of the DailyWorth Connect Program. Read more about the program here.