Having a commitment to a practice of gratitude will transform your life. Both the science and anecdotal evidence has proven that people, who live from a sense of gratitude, sleep better, have deeper friendships and relationships, better health, are more resilient, have increased productivity and energy, and are just generally happier. I could go on and on with this list, and I will, but at another time and place.
Today I want share a few ideas for establishing a gratitude practice.
1. Let’s begin with the tried and true idea of keeping a Gratitude Journal. Sarah Ban Breathnach first introduced this transformative idea in Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. This practice involves writing down 3-10 things each day in a journal. You could chose to do this any time during the day, but it is often suggested to do this just before heading to bed. When we do so it seems to help us relax and fall asleep with a less troubled, worry-free mind.
2. Write a heart-felt note of thanks to someone. This could be a postcard or a note card. Send it to the people that you often take for granted or over-look, but who make your life better. Or for a really big challenge write a note of gratitude to someone who has challenged you, but who has helped you to grow in some way. This letter may or may not be appropriate to send. You will have to judge that. Whether you send it or not doesn’t matter, there is value in you having written the note and energetically putting that vibe out into the world.
3. Create an awareness talisman. This could be a bracelet which helps to remind you to stop and notice something for which you are grateful. You could even switch it to the other wrist each time you pause to connect intentionally with what your are grateful for. You could also keep a tally of how many times you made the switch each day as a kind of barometer of how you are doing at incorporating more gratitude into your life each day. I know for me I find this kind of personal challenge to be fun and motivating. I like to see if I can top my previous days tally. Another talisman could be as simple as a polished stone you keep in your pocket or on your desk. Your touchstone could be anything that has personal meaning and will assist you in remembering to connect with your gratitude.
4. Use gratitude beads daily to kinesthetically count your blessings…one blessing for each bead. This idea is adapted from the use of prayer beads within many different religious traditions to count the number of times they recite a mantra, chant, prayer, or devotion.
5. Go on a Gratitude walk or hike. This could be as simple as a walk around the neighborhood or my own personal favorite is to get out in nature at least once a week for a longer hike. There is nothing like taking a pause during the week to commune with nature. The exercise helps to release happy brain chemicals so that alone is good for lifting your spirits. Then intentionally focusing your attention in the direction of gratitude amplifies this affect substantially.
I like to take my camera to capture visually what I’m grateful for and include these images in my gratitude journal…it’s fun and satisfying. Plus, I have an unproven theory that combining both a gratitude practice and a creativity practice together will create a synergistic affect on our quality of life and well being. It wouldn’t surprise me if combining these two practices doesn’t increase these benefits substantially. Science hasn’t studied this synergy yet (least not that I am aware of), but they have studied each practice alone and have learned they each by them self have a dramatic impact on our quality of life. I’m definitely curious about this. For me personally anytime I can weave creativity in it is both more motivating and life enhancing.
6. Celebrate your senses. When we mindfully connect and use all of our senses it enhances our ability to also connect with our sense of gratitude. Perhaps you could combine a practice of daily gratitude with the ritual of sipping your morning tea or coffee. How could you involve more of your senses in simple routines you take for granted? Perhaps you could create a ritual during your daily shower where you thank all of the various parts of your beautiful body. When I let it–the warm soothing flow of water helps me to open my gratitude floodgates.
7. Write a gratitude haiku, poem, prayer or vow. Reread them aloud when you need to reconnect with your gratitude. You could use the photos you took during your gratitude walk to illustrate and/or inspire your words.
8. Mindfully commit to using the language of the heart. People who live in a mindset of gratitude pepper their language generously with words such as gifts, giving, blessings, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance. Become aware of your own “language.” When you notice it’s heading in a depressed, woe is me direction, redirect your thoughts in a direction that lifts your spirits. Don’t beat yourself up about this…just notice and gently move your thoughts in a more positive uplifting and joy-filled direction.
9. Act as if. When you become aware of feeling down in the dumps and you want to feel better about the world use your body to redirect your mindset. Intentionally smile, give a belly laugh, turn on uplifting music and dance or sing. The body mind connection is a powerful thing. You may not feel like smiling when you begin, but your mind and emotions will follow your bodies lead.
10. Trade in your measuring stick for a walking stick and/or gratitude wand. When our eyes are always focused on our neighbors, what they have, how they are more talented and gifted, how life is easier for them. etc., it is impossible for us to have a mindset of gratitude. It isn’t physiologically possible for us to simultaneously experience feelings of gratitude and feelings of envy, criticism, or judgment.
I have some additional ideas for gratitude practices which I’ve played with, which incorporate more creativity. I think this makes them all the more effective in enhancing ones sense of well-being. I’ll be introducing these to you over time. So stick around.
This post is already “too” long. Didn’t want to overwhelm you with too much information. I’m probably too guilty of that tendency.
Anyway what do you think? What have you learned about gratitude in your own life? How do you practice gratitude in your life? Do you have a regular practice? What have you tried? What’s worked? What’s been a challenge? Or any other comments you may have?
Please leave a comment below. I’m always eager to learn and discover something new.