Gratitude is something that always comes to the forefront of peoples minds this time of year...but how many of us practice being grateful all throughout the year?
The benefits of practicing gratitude are nearly endless. When we practice gratitude by taking time to notice and reflect upon the things we're thankful for allows us to experience more positive emotions, feel more alive, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems. We dont need to save gratitude for only momentous occasions: Sure, you might express gratitude after receiving a promotion at work, but you can also be thankful for something as simple as a delicious piece of cake. I have been keeping a gratitude journal for the past couple years—I regularly write brief reflections on moments for which I'm grateful for - and I have noticed a big shift in how I show up for my life. But I know what your thinking...this motivation lasts about three days until writing down gratitudes every evening loses out to watching Netflix.
Here are a few things I’ve discovered that help not only to start a gratitude practice, but to make it a part of your routine.
1. Freshen Up Your Thanks
Notice new things you’re grateful for every day. Gratitude journaling works because it slowly changes the way we perceive situations by adjusting what we focus on. While you might always be thankful for your great family, just writing “I’m grateful for my family” week after week doesn’t keep your brain on alert for fresh grateful moments. Get specific by writing “Today my husband brought me breakfast and coffee in bed when he knew I needed to rest” or "My friend invited me over for dinner so I didn't have to cook after a long day." And be sure to stretch yourself beyond the great stuff right in front of you. Opening your eyes to more of the world around you can deeply enhance your gratitude practice. Make a game out of noticing new things each day.
2. Get Real About Your Gratitude Practice
Being excited about the benefits of gratitude can be a great thing because it gives us the kick we need to start making changes. But if our excitement about sleeping better because of our newfound gratitude keeps us from anticipating how tired we’ll be tomorrow night when we attempt to journal, we’re likely to lose focus. When we want to achieve a goal, using the technique of mental contrasting—being optimistic about the benefits of a new habit while also being realistic about how difficult building the habit may be – leads us to exert more effort. Recognize and plan for the obstacles that may get in the way. For instance, if you tend to be exhausted at night, accept that it might not be the best time to focus for a few extra minutes and schedule your gratitude in the morning instead.
3. Make Thankfulness Fun By Mixing It Up
Don’t limit yourself—if journaling is feeling stale, try out new and creative ways to track your grateful practices. Maybe create a gratitude jar. Any time you experience a moment of gratitude, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar. On New Year’s Eve, empty the jar and review everything you wrote. When a good thing happens, “That’s one for the gratitude jar!” It immediately makes the moment more meaningful and keeps you on the lookout for more.
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