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When was the last time you stopped and thoughtfully expressed gratitude? If you said “last November on Thanksgiving,” that’s alright. You’ve got to start somewhere. But have you considered incorporating an attitude of gratitude into your daily routine? If not, you may want to start. One study (PDF) suggests that thinking about gratitude can actually reduce your impatience for monetary gratification.

At its most basic level, gratitude is having or showing an appreciation for something or someone. At a deeper level, it’s being actively thankful for our happy experiences as well as the obstacles in our path. It’s also having an appreciation for every luxury we enjoy along with the seemingly menial aspects of our lives.

While saying thanks isn’t going to magically make money appear in your Checking Account, it can improve your judgment. Let’s explore how gratification can help you slow down, recognize what you have, be appreciative of those who’ve helped you along the way, and choose better uses for your money (hint: like building up your savings or giving back to your community).

You’ll start recognizing that you’re actually well-off after all.

Each day many of us wake up, get ready and head off to work or school. We usually don’t give a second thought to the breakfast we ate, the transportation we took, the clothes we put on or the soap we used to bathe. But while we were preparing for another average day, there are millions of people across the globe who face extraordinary circumstances from homelessness to famine to war — making our everyday routines seem like a dream.

Should you feel bad about what you have? Absolutely not! But, being thankful for what you have right now can go a long way in helping you decide if you need another gadget, expensive make-up or piece of clothing.

Whether you’re practicing gratitude for simple stuff like a tube of toothpaste or a bar of soap. Or you’re thinking about something larger like the bed you slept in last night or the car that gets you from point-A to point-B. Over time you’ll begin to realize that acquiring more stuff just isn’t as important anymore, because you’ve become aware that you already have all that you need to be content.

You’ll find more reasons to be thankful for the present moment.

Do you ever find that your happiness is continually tied to a proverbial carrot that’s placed just outside of today’s reach? You know, the old “I’ll be happier when I graduate from school, get a new job, move to a new city, get married, retire, etc.”

Instead of needlessly tying your happiness to yet another finish line, try being thankful for the present day. That way you’ll be less tempted to fill the void with material possessions and expensive habits.

This present-day approach can bleed over into successful financial planning for the future, too, by eliminating statements like “I’ll start saving more for retirement when ...” There’s no need to wait for another day or another milestone. Be grateful for the small amount you can contribute toward your Savings Account today, and you’ll have even more to work with when you’ve achieved that other goal.

You’ll begin to recognize an increased sense of purpose.

Most of us didn’t get to where we are today solely on our own merit. We had family members, teachers, mentors, bosses and friends who helped us out along the way. With your newfound sense of gratitude, you can show them what their help meant to you by living your life in a way that would make them proud.

What better way to thank those who helped you succeed than by honoring your success through achieving even more or learning to thoughtfully spend and save what you earned? There’s also returning the favor to consider, which you can do directly by helping those who’ve helped you, or by giving back to your community.

You can start today.

One of the great things about practicing gratitude is that you can start right now. You don’t need any special supplies or how-to books. Simply follow these guidelines:

  • Write it – Keep a gratitude journal and write in it at least 10 things you are thankful for each day.
  • Say it – Tell people you’re thankful for them and their actions.
  • Remember it – Remember those who have helped you get where you are today.
  • See it – Look around you and take mental notes of all that there is to be thankful for.
  • Notice it – Find the positive nugget in any situation and give it your focus and appreciation.

Keep these practices going throughout the holidays and into the New Year. Before you know it, practicing gratitude every day will become second nature, and your path to financial freedom will become that much clearer.

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