It’s amazing how much training your brain in any one particular direction can change your whole approach to life. But in most things, lots of practice will lead to success. Or at least improvement. And I think most of us would like to appreciate the special little moments of our lives, focusing on the little positives rather than the negatives. To be honest, it takes time, consistency and commitment to practice true gratitude. It can be a slog, but in the long term, I’d be prepared to guarantee that it will work. Let’s face it: everyone (well, not everyone, but you know what I mean) is doing it, so there has to be something to it. My son does it. My partner does it. I try.
To me, being grateful means acknowledging the things I have and appreciating them forwhat they are. That’s the first step. But there’s so much more to practicing gratitude than just remembering what you have. It’s about being able to find the positives in each and every day, even when it seems like there’s nothing positive going on. It’s about finding the snippets of sunshine on the cloudiest day. And doing it. Every. Damn. Day.
I’m not particularly good at this. Much like my meditation practice, it’s something that I have done regularly for a period of time, but then only manage in fits and starts. I wish I was better at it. Like anything, if you want to include it in your life as a habit, it’s so important to keep it up for at least 30 days initially. From my understanding, it becomes almost automatic after that. But I can hear you asking, why would I want to make the time for this in my life? Well, I’m a big believer in a few of the things I think gratitude will deliver for you. Firstly, if you spend time at the end of each day trying to identify the good things that have come from the day, ultimately you will spend your days noticing them. You will want to have material to write about at the end of the day and you will be on the lookout for things you can include. Secondly, if you spend time focusing on the positives, it’s amazing how much the negatives can fade. Think about the way we often try to console ourselves when we lose someone important to us… We often reflect on this and think that while we are sad to lose them, they lived a full life. Developing a confidence around what is good in our lives can change our way of thinking about the things we commonly see as bad. Finally, our brains are wired with a negativity bias. If you want to stay out of the red (maintain your hedonic adaptation), you need five positive experiences to each negative one – it’s science! If you’re not convinced by these reasons, then I’d love to hear your arguments against leading a positively focused life!
So, the big question from here is, how do you go about it? I think there are a number of different ways. And I’m determined to choose one of these myself tonight and restart my practice.
- Download an app for your phone that fulfils this function. You can set a reminder so that you remember to do it every day. There are plenty of good free options out there. Previously I have used one called (surprisingly!) Gratitude Journal. These apps can provide you with a structure, which I think is very helpful in the beginning to get you going.
- If you’re anything like me, you’d probably choose to use a pen over an app. You could just write your gratitude in your regular journal, or simply have another journal specially for recording your gratitude. There are also dedicated gratitude journals on the market.
- Write them on post-its of an evening and stick them somewhere you’ll see them in the morning, like the bathroom mirror. Imagine the power of waking up and seeing what you were grateful about from the day before…
- Create a gratitude display of some kind. My partner has a gratitude board, where she hangs photos and words to provide a visual display of things she is grateful for. She’ll change it up from time to time, but again, having this visible reminder can be super powerful – especially if you couple if with a journaling option.
- Open up opportunities for gratitude in your day. Tell people when you are grateful for something. Suggest to your boss to include a positive start to your meetings at work – my boss included a segment called ‘Magnify the Good’ in our weekly meetings and people were able to share things they were grateful for each week. But honestly, tell people when you are grateful.
So these are a few ideas for starting. I think three items of gratitude are a good place to start. I wouldn’t suggest any fewer, as that can encourage you to be a little bit lazy about identifying what has been positive about your day. If there’s a day when you can do more, go for it! A simple search online can provide you with so many great ways to start. If you’re struggling to get going, consider these prompts:
- What made you smile today?
- What freedoms are you grateful for?
- Who are you grateful for and why?
These are but a few possibilities! For most of us, there are so many things to be grateful for, but life just seems to pass us by with so much activity and stress that it’s easy to forget to remind yourself of the simple things that fulfil us.
The beauty of gratitude is that there’s no right or wrong. You don’t need a degree to do it, and it’s just for you – there’s nobody to judge you for it. But, I have to be honest here. People probably will judge you. They will start to notice you smiling more. They will start to notice that you have an amazing outlook on life and that you focus on the positive things! So, yep. They’ll judge you! So what are you grateful for?
Today, I’m grateful for:
- My son and the wonderful conversations we have. He’s growing up so quickly and I can feel this ever-increasing maturity in his voice. He’s such a beautiful person.
- My close friends. They know very well who they are and they’re always ready with an ear for me… Today I provided my ear, but that just reminded me of the beauty of friendship.
- Living in a place with easy access to fresh food. I took a short walk to the supermarket in the sunshine and was able to buy some delicious food to share with my son for a quiet dinner together.
So, yes. I’m grateful. I hope you’ll judge me for it.