When I feel my light starting to fade out, the first practice I return to again and again is gratitude.
On really bad days and on really good days, grounding into gratitude saves me.
And it’s saved many of my clients over the years, too.
This year I cracked open a brand new journal — my 11th — feeling like it was a practice I needed now more than ever.
And the longer we settle into these unsettling times, the more grounding into gratitude is vital for my own well-being.
My gratitude practice is stronger than ever. In fact, I feel as if I could write for days every single night. Every day, right now, there is just so much to be grateful for.
Not everything. I’m not grateful for a lot of things right now.
But so much. So many other beautiful things and people and experiences unfolding.
Like the fact that my own creativity is on fire this year.
Gratitude gets a bad rap by some. But the truth is that it is one of the most scientifically studied happiness booster anyone can practice. And when practiced whole-heartedly and honestly, it can be the most powerful shift out of anger, frustration and impatience — which I think we can all agree is much needed right now in our world.
8 Ways a Gratitude Practice Can Make You Happier
I can’t imagine ending a day without focusing on what I’m grateful for.
But I can tell you that sometimes I open my journal and think there is NOTHING to be grateful for today. However, instead of letting that be the ending of that narrative in my head, I sit with pen in hand, close my eyes and reflect on my day. Sometimes I let the simple things take over. But most often some memory from earlier in the day returns and I am washed over with a beautiful feeling. When this happens, a smile of … “I told you so” washes over my face.
Gratitude can make you happier. Here’s what it offers to you with consistent practice …
- It can absolutely boost your self-esteem and self-worth.
- It can reduce your stress and symptoms of trauma.
- It can encourage a meaningful life that cultivates more compassion and kindness.
- It helps to build better quality relationships.
- It prevents forms of social comparison/jealousy.
- It decreases negative emotions and feelings.
- It reduces boredom and prevents living in the status quo.
So just what do you need to do to start a meaningful gratitude practice?
As long as you believe there is nothing to be grateful for it’s going to be hard to start let alone maintain a practice rooted in positivity. So the first step is just choosing to try it. Resistance is your teacher here. If you resist this practice, there is a message there for you to listen to. Ask yourself, why am I resisting this? What am I unwilling to experience? Or, what am I trying to cling to here?
TRY IT FOR 30 DAYS.
A day or two of gratitude — especially when inconsistently practiced — isn’t going to bring you the true life-changing happiness booster effect that a consistent practice will offer. So vow to try doing a practice for a substantial period of time. This might be 7 days. Or two weeks. I’m suggesting you give it a try for 30 days — long enough to really make it more of a habit. Some believe a daily practice is too much. But for many, a consistent daily practice keeps the habit sustainable rather than out of sight, out of mind.
MAKE IT A RITUAL
Yes, doing your gratitude practice regularly is key. But learning to FEEL gratitude when it comes up is the practice and ritual of it all. Make it a powerful ritual in your day to take time in your day to recognize even just one thing you can be grateful for and spent a minute reflecting on that one thing. By making this a habit throughout your day you will start to really feel the gratitude “wash” that will lead to more positivity.
WRITE IT DOWN — OR NOT
I write my gratitudes down in a new journal each year and I save them to be able to give to my daughters some day. I re-read them from time to time as well for great memory keeping. But you don’t have to write down gratitudes to experience the happiness boost. Take a picture on your phone and store them in a special album to print at the end of the year. Meditate on what you are grateful for. Or start a family gratitude bulletin board.
EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE
Better than anything is offering your gratitude to someone else. By sharing what you are grateful with someone else – or why you are grateful for them — you are spreading the positivity and good emotions. This is a joy injection for everyone, including yourself. So don’t be afraid to go out of your way to express gratitude to someone today. Your child or partner. A friend. A store worker. A teacher or principal. The postal worker delivering your mail. There are many needing a dose of gratitude right now.