Research shows that practicing gratitude has many benefits. Have you ever heard of the saying that the grass isn’t greener on the other side, it’s greener where you water it? Another way to put that is that what you focus on grows. So, the more you take time to notice and reflect upon the things you are thankful for, the more you’ll experience an increase in your well-being and life satisfaction.
Starting the practice is as easy as grabbing a piece of paper and writing down a few things you are thankful for. The bigger challenge is keeping it fresh and sticking with it.
Try practicing gratitude in different ways:
- gratitude letters
- gratitude jars
- saying what you are grateful for together as a family
- thank you letters and post-it notes
- exchanging gratitudes with your partner before you go to bed
Also, try to come up with new things to be grateful for each day and be as specific as possible!
Using Gratitude to Shift our Mindset
While feeling our feelings is really important, often our feelings are based on thoughts that are negative and sometimes even wrong. Those thoughts are often based on our fears and worries that might have gotten a bit out of control. My own experience has been that when I am feeling stuck, unhappy, frustrated, critical, worried, or anxious, gratitude is an amazing antidote.
Gratitude shifts our perspective away from our ruminating thoughts and fears and towards that which is going well in our lives. It allows our nervous system to calm down and frees us up to be more creative and open to new solutions.
Gratitude quiets the busy mind.
Some examples of places where I use gratitude to replace my stuck thoughts are when I am in a complaining and critical place with my husband – I try to replace those thoughts with things I am thankful for about him. Same with when I am getting self-critical – I try to turn those things around and think of places where I’m feeling proud or doing something well. When I get sucked into self-doubt, I try to focus on the things that are going well and things I have successfully accomplished in the past. When I can’t sleep (usually because I am stuck in some worry thoughts), I shift to gratitude.
When we notice ourselves using language around what we deserve, our regrets, a sense of lack and scarcity, and judging and blaming others, it’s a great time to practice a little gratitude (and explore why we are feeling these more fear-based and negative feelings).
8 Ways to Weave Gratitude Into Your Day
- Simply orienting ourselves towards that which is good can shift our attitude.
- Waking up in the morning and jotting down a few things we are thankful for before we check our email or read the news can change the way we feel for the rest of the day.
- Sharing your appreciation with another person is something that can brighten someone else’s day or give them a new perspective as well.
- Some things feel really yucky while we’re going through it, but usually, when we get to the other side, we can see that we learned something along the way. See if you can find what you might be grateful for in the future.
- Go on a gossip, complaint, and criticism diet for a week.
- Notice what you’re feeling like you need (more attention, affection, appreciation, etc.) and give it to someone else.
- When you notice yourself stuck in a negative cycle in your thoughts, stop yourself and rattle off some things that you’re grateful for in the moment – notice how you feel
- While at a stoplight or in line at a store, look around and notice what you can be grateful for – the abundance of food, the sunshine, your car, the music on the radio, your good-hair day, your nice shoes, etc.
The Many Types of Gratitude
Don’t judge yourself for what you’re grateful for, there are no better or worse kinds of gratitude. You may experience:
- Gratitude for what you have and/or experience that is good and positive (possessions, people, pets, jobs, circumstances, home, money, etc.)
- Gratitude for what you and/or others do that feels good and positive
- Gratitude that goes beyond your life circumstances – being grateful for all your experiences, positive and negative. You see them as part of this journey called life and that life has its ups and downs. This is more of an attitude of gratitude.
- Viewing life as your teacher, you may believe that everything for your highest good and the evolution of your soul
- Gratitude for people, even when you’re only seeing the negative in a person. Remember the person is more than just those negative thoughts and be grateful for the other aspects of the person (have a positive bias towards the people you love)
- Gratitude for those things you don’t like so much – like paying bills, doing dishes, etc. – but you like when they are done!
- Gratitude for the grander scheme of life – nature, Source, freedom, energy, love, sunshine, the natural order, the good in humanity, faith, hope, the gift of being a human, the circle of life, etc.
- Gratitude for your inner experience, your heart beating, your eyesight and hearing, your health, your feelings, and the ability to think, problem-solve, create, move your body, love, live.
A GRATITUDE CAUTION:
Notice where gratitude is keeping you from acknowledging what’s real and hard in your life. Most of us have pretty great lives in so many ways. And if we compare our lives to other people in the world, we can quickly get into the “I shouldn’t complain, I have so much to be grateful for – I’m so blessed” mentality. This is the source of so much suffering. It’s basically saying that your pain isn’t as big or bad as someone else’s pain so you should stuff it down and pretend it’s not there.
Please don’t invalidate your experience, your circumstances, your life, you. Don’t compare your pain to another. What you feel is what you feel. You can feel your pain and still acknowledge your life is wonderful in so many ways. You can acknowledge others have a much harder life than you and still acknowledge that what you’re going through right now is hard for you. Gratitude can bypass facing our own stuff. Watch for it and catch yourself. You deserve your attention and compassion too.
“Manifesting more of what you want, always starts with gratitude for that which you already have”
What you focus on grows!
P.S. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t practice gratitude in a certain situation or keep forgetting your morning gratitude practice. The more you practice gratitude, the easier it gets and the more likely you are to revert to it, so just keep trying 🙂