Gratitude is one of my favorite practices. This is because it is a really simple exercise that takes almost no time, but has far-reaching, multi-focal benefits. If you’re only going to do one self-care practice, this one will give you the most bang for your buck. Gratitude turns what you have into enough. It turns a bad day into a fortunate day. It also makes positivity a habit. Not only that, but research shows that grateful people are healthier.
David Asprey from Bulletproof says, “I do it because gratitude literally rewires your brain. Even a simple gratitude writing practice builds lasting neural sensitivity to more positive thinking. That means the more you practice gratitude, the more you default to positivity instead of negativity Study after study shows that simple gratitude exercises, like keeping a journal or sharing daily wins with friends or family, can make you happier, more positive, and more emotionally open after just two weeks (1,2,3). The benefits last, too (4), which leads to an overall increase in well-being, making you more resilient to stress (5). That’s a lot of improvement for 10 minutes a day.”
In other words, this is a valuable skill to practice every day. Not just this week. I spend most of my time practicing gratitude. I know it sounds fantastical, but simply being thankful throughout the day drastically improves everything from personal relations to weight loss. Truly, I find that on weeks when I focus on how thankful I am I have fewer IBS symptoms, am less fatigued, and am generally happier. Gratefulness helps you go with the flow, accept what is, and be of greater service.
6 ways to practice gratitude in your own life:
- Eat mindfully. This will be one you can use tomorrow. Take one bite at a time. Enjoy it fully. Then take another fork-full. Shuttling the next bite of food toward your mouth while you are still chewing the one you have is demonstrating a scarcity mindset. Since we do everything how we do one thing, shoveling food in this way is akin to being unable to appreciate what we have for a few seconds before reaching for what’s next. No wonder we have trouble being happy. Savor your food. It will taste better and (bonus!) you will eat less.
- Be thankful for the little things. The Stoics like to point out that we have plenty to be thankful for already without longing for more. For example, if you deprive yourself of the pleasures you would normally take for granted–like your comfy bed, three meals a day, your reliable car, or your safe neighborhood–you will be infinitely more appreciative of them after. If you need to practice misfortune to become grateful for what you already have, go right ahead. I, for one, will skip that step (for the most part) and move right on to being overly grateful for the ordinary.
- List what you are grateful for. Journalling has several notable perks, one being that it forces you to think things through. As you sit down to write in your gratitude journal, you reflect on your day and count your wins. You may realize that what seemed like a crappy day actually had some good come of it. When you write things down, they become tangible, or more real, and so your wins seem bigger than your losses. This practice also gives you a reason to find things to be grateful for throughout the day. I remember a story about a teacher who asked his students to write every evening about something unusual they were grateful for that day. This forced the students to seek out unexpected blessings every day.
- Look for the silver lining. There is both good and bad in everything. Nothing is all one way or the other. So, focus on the good. Be grateful even for the things that seem like disasters. Events are neutral. We decide whether they are good or bad. How many times has something bad happened, but something good came of it? Maybe you can learn something or change something in your life because of what happened. Find something to be grateful for even when things don’t go your way. It is all up to you and your perspective. This doesn’t mean you gloss over tragic events or perpetually wear your rose-colored glasses while people take advantage of you. Quite the opposite, being grateful for unfortunate events allows us to internalize the lessons these events teach us. Instead of looking away, we learn and react from a place of greater understanding.
- Make a point to be grateful. Look for things throughout your day to be appreciative of. This is especially important on days when you are feeling overly negative. Even if you are only looking for something to write in your gratitude journal, practicing gratitude rewires your brain to seek out the positive rather than the negative. I literally walk, drive, and perform tasks at work while thinking “thank you, thank you, thank you” over and over in my head.
- Include your family. I like to ask my young daughter what she is grateful for each day. This gives her the benefits of more positive thought patterns and gives us an opportunity to connect with each other. It doesn’t take long to listen to her thoughts and it’s always rewarding. My husband and I also like to ask each other what we are grateful for to keep each other thinking positively.
What are you thankful for? Let me know in the comments.
If you find this useful, there’s a good chance your friends will, too. Share this with your friends right away while you are thinking of it. Thanks for reading!
Originally published on DonWings July 16, 2018 (edited)