I wasn’t sold on it at first.
I thought it was pretty dorky and insincere. I didn’t understand what people meant when they said, “Gratitude is a practice.” I felt entitled to my ungrateful thoughts and wasn’t interested in letting go of my hurts, complaints, or judgments. They felt real and true to me.
Fast forward to today….
I’ve come to realize how practical and imperative the practice of gratitude is if I want to be a positive influence in the lives of others and experience consistent joy, myself. I’ve discovered that practicing gratitude is the fast track to more peace, more influence, more laughs, more abundance, more positive change, more courage, and more of everything I truly desire.
Here’s the deal…
Practicing gratitude is not about:
Ignoring the not-so-great things that are going on in your life. (Instead, it’s about being willing to acknowledge all the wonderful things that are there as well.)
Pretending you don’t feel isolated, disappointed, or stressed at times. (It’s about being willing to also honor the times when you feel a sense of connection, satisfaction, and peace.)
Lying to yourself. (Instead, it’s about choosing what you want to focus on.)
Practicing gratitude is about taking over the reins of your life by training your brain to look for things that are going well, instead of staying stuck in default mode and only noticing the not-so-great stuff.
Gratitude is big enough to hold space for honesty and a willingness to change perspectives.
Gratitude is not an “either/or” practice. I see it as a “this and” way of living.
I felt hurt by what she said at the beginning of the meeting and so excited about the compliments they gave me at the end.
I feel really lonely sometimes and super connected when I’m petting my dog, hugging my spouse, and walking in nature.
I feel really physically uncomfortable (cold, hot, etc.) in that place and completely accepted by the people there.
The reality is, at any given time, there are 1,000,000+ things you could focus on. Contrast is always present. To one degree or another, in any given situation, you can always find:
– Comforts and discomforts
– Function and dysfunction
– Abundance and scarcity
– Order and chaos
Why not get good at focusing on the former, rather than the latter?
“Talking about our problems is our greatest addiction. Break the habit. Talk about your joys!”– Rita Schiano
Gratitude is a skill.
Just like playing the piano beautifully and making free throws consistently require practice, in order for gratitude to be a beautiful, consistent, fluid part of your character, it requires practice too.
In order for gratitude to change your experience of life, you must make it a priority and be deliberate about using it.
It can be uncomfortable at first. It definitely was for me. It felt weird.
But, just like driving a car was a skill that required a ton of your time, energy, and effort to learn at first, and then became a second-nature task that serves you well today, becoming skilled in the gratitude arena will follow that same progression.
“Without exception, every person I interviewed who described living a joyful life or who described themselves as joyful, actively practiced gratitude and attributed their joyfulness to their gratitude practice.” – Brene Brown
So, how do you practice being grateful?
There are endless ways and one is not better than another. If it resonates, it’s a “good” practice for you.
Here are a few of my favorite gratitude practices:
#1: KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
Take some time each day to write down one or more people, insights, experiences, or possessions that you truly appreciate. This could be as life changing as new job or as seemingly mundane as clean water to drink and a hot shower to clean up in. (Psst…we often take those for granted and they’re kind of a big deal!) Take a few moments to really feel your appreciation as you’re writing.
This practice as been scientifically proven to significantly increase a person’s sense of peace and happiness, when done consistently.
#2: THINK OF SOMETHING YOU’RE THANKFUL FOR WHEN STOPPED AT A RED LIGHT, WAITING IN LINE, OR ON THE ELEVATOR.
Most of us have trained ourselves to only notice urgency in these situations While waiting for a light to turn green, for example, we often feel delayed, late, and like there’s not enough time.
What if you used these experiences as a prompt to deliberately cultivate joy, by practicing gratitude, instead?
#3: REPEAT ‘THANK YOU’ OVER AND OVER AGAIN IN YOUR MIND, OUT LOUD, OR BY WRITING IT DOWN.
It may seem silly (it did to me at first), but it’s a powerful way to practice gratitude. Give it a try and see what you think…you may be surprised!
My favorite times to utilize this practice are, with my footsteps, as I’m walking up stairs and as I’m walking from my bed to get a drink of water, right when I get up in the morning.
#4: Put up a gratitude board.
This could be a marker board or a bulletin board. Post things you’re thankful for and let others post as well. Everyone in your household will benefit!
#5: Put out a gratitude jar.
This is a place to hold comments. Write out what you love about other people in your household. Write out what you love about your lifestyle or the place you live.
Remember: not everything as to be going well in your life to acknowledge the things that you appreciate.
Have a set time each week or month to read through the comments together.
#6: When you notice things you appreciate, point them out to others.
When your spouse does something nice for you, even if it’s a seemingly small gesture, don’t keep your appreciation to yourself. Let him know! When a sunset captures your heart, take a picture and text it to a friend. When the beauty of a flower catches your eye on a walk, stop, breathe it in, and point it out to the people passing by.
#7: Make eye contact and smile at people you meet when you’re out and about.
This is a simple way to appreciation the potential connection inherent in each interaction with another individual.
Bonus: it takes no time at all and only has positive side effects!
#8: Compliment strangers.
If you love someone’s smile…or her earrings, let her know! Why keep kind comments to yourself? They are meant to be shared! Make someone’s day and your day will be made. When you’re actively looking for things to praise in another, you’re training your brain towards appreciation vs. judgment.
#9: Be super nice to anyone offering you a service.
Ask the clerk at the grocery store how her day is going. Be lighthearted on the phone with the costumer service rep. (In the grand scheme of things, is that thing you’re calling about really that big of a deal?) Thank your mechanic for his great work. And, on your way home, appreciate all the training he has and obstacles he moved through in order to start the business that fixed your car so you can speed, smoothly and quickly, towards your desired destination.
#10: Write a thank you card or email for no apparent reason.
Send it to your friend or loved one. Infuse it with love. Gush over them. Mark it with gratitude.
SHARE WITH US:
How do you practice gratitude? Do you find it difficult to share what you’re thankful for?
Annalicia Lynn is a yoga & Pilates instructor, health coach, writer, speaker, and founder of YogaAndPilatesOnline.com. With 10+ years of teaching experience and a life’s journey of lessons to share, she guides women on their path to achieving the lives & bodies they’ve always wanted – on terms rooted in deep self-understanding and self-care. For more from Annalicia, drop by YogaAndPilatesOnline.com and wave hello on Facebook and Instagram!