“Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.” -Melody Beattie
I know what you’re thinking…another gratitude post…but wait…before you leave…let me tell you why this gratitude thing is so darn important.
Between our social media feeds, the fashion magazines we can’t avoid in line at the grocery store and all the gossip blogs, it can feel like everyone else has a better body, a better wardrobe, a better home, a better life, than we do.
Day in and out we unconsciously digest these images and ideas that tell us (whether we’re paying attention or not) that we’re lacking something and this takes a huge toll on us emotionally and mentally.
I’m not going to bore you citing all the psychological studies that show the social, psychological and physical health benefits you get from giving thanks. Simply put, when you give thanks and practice gratitude a couple of different things will happen. First, you’ll gain perspective on what’s truly meaningful and valuable to you and second, you’ll start to discover you’re life is pretty darn good.
I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or if I’m reacting to the events of the last couple of weeks, but I’ve found that the more I focus on what I’m grateful for – the happier I feel.
If you’re feeling like you need a bit more gratitude in your life, here are 4 things you can start doing today to find the gratitude you need:
1) Gratitude Journal
I know…I know you’ve already heard all about gratitude journals. I remember when Oprah introduced me to this idea way back in the late 1990s. If you’re unfamiliar with this exercise, it’s an easy one. Grab a piece of paper and something to write with and list at least 5 things/places/people/ideas that you’re grateful for.
Some things to remember about keeping a gratitude journal:
· Don’t wait until you find the “perfect” journal - use whatever paper you’ve got at home
· Be consistent – there have been studies that show it isn’t necessary to write a list every day – so you don’t have to do it everyday – just figure out what works best for you and stay with it.
· While it’s fine to list the same things everyday, I would urge you to dig a little deeper. It’s easy to get into a rut only to list the same things every time but I’m sure there’s more than 5 things in the entire universe that you’re grateful for – so challenge yourself. It will open up your mind to all the things you have in your life.
· If it feels “old-fashioned” to write these things down then bring your gratitude list into the modern age. Take a picture of the things you’re grateful for and post them on Instagram or Facebook. Write a quick post about why you’re grateful for this person or place or thing.
2) Remember the Hard Times
When life is be-bopping along it’s easy to forget about how hard things were last year or several years ago. We’ve all gone through times or phases in our lives that were rough so take a moment and think about how grateful you are to be in the place you are today.
If today feels really hard then think about a time when you didn’t have something you have today that you’re grateful for. You can always think about middle school or high school – I haven’t met anyone who didn’t feel (even just a little bit) insecure when they were a kid. Think about how awkward you once were and how good you feel today, older and more mature, and able to make your own decisions.
3) Visual Reminders
If you find you’re able to keep a daily gratitude journal but the moment you put the cap back on your pen, you can barely remember what you were grateful for a minute ago, you may want to start using some visual reminders.
There are two big obstacles to gratefulness – forgetfulness and awareness. A visual reminder will solve both those problems.
When I was training to become a licensed therapist, I interned at several treatment facilities and worked with some really tough clients. At one really difficult job, I decided to print out and hang several pictures of my son at my desk.
During the days when I was so overwhelmed by work, I would go back to my desk and look at the photos of my son and instantly remember why I was working towards my goal.
4) Make a Vow to be Grateful
If you don’t want to keep a journal and you don’t want to hang pictures all over your office, you can simply make a conscious choice to practice kindness and gratitude in your every day life.
Say hello to the doorperson you walk by every morning. Ask how the barista at Starbucks is doing today. Hold the door open even if it’s inconvenient. According to the Greater Good (www.greatergood.berkeley.edu) if you go through the motions of gratitude then the emotion of gratitude will be triggered. Otherwise known as “fake it til you make it.”
If you’re still skeptical about this whole gratitude thing, just try one of the exercises for a week and see how you feel. You have nothing to lose and so much to gain.
Wishing you and your loved ones a very Happy Thanksgiving and I’m grateful for you!