I know. It’s the topic on everyone’s blog and podcast right now! But there is good reason for that. Gratitude genuinely has a positive impact on our mental and physical well being.
Sometimes when I hear something over and over again, I stop listening. Or I tell myself, I already know it so I don’t need to listen. But every time I hear about how gratitude can make me happier and healthier, I stop and listen.
Oh how I need that reminder! Why is it so hard for me to remember how good gratitude is for me and that I should be practicing it all the time? Oh yeah, because human minds are naturally inclined to look for the problems and threats (hey, self-preservation is important!) It takes a little more effort to shift gears and look for the blessings and the abundance.
But when I do remember… wow! I found this quote in an article on the Harvard Medical School website and it fits all the reasons why I keep trying to be grateful:
In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.
If that’s not something that makes life lighter, I don’t know what is! And the best part is that it doesn’t take any money, or educational degrees, or even a lot of time.
It just takes pausing and noticing.
So let’s get to the nitty gritty! HOW do we remember to take the time to choose gratitude? Well, I’ve already admitted that I am absolutely no expert on this. But I have done some things that have definitely helped. And all these wonderful reminders in November have helped me try some new things to allow gratitude to lighten up my life.
Here are a four ideas of how to incorporate gratitude into your everyday life:
Gratitude Shout-out: When something good happens, do you stop and really acknowledge it? When a recipe turns out well, or an interaction with someone in your family is good, or you have a chance to share your gift… whatever it is… stop and feel the gratitude for that good thing! The other day, I tried a new tactic to help my son calm down from a big emotion… and it worked! You bet your boots I had a silent gratitude shout-out! Don’t rush past the good stuff. Pause to relish it!
Switch Lenses: When something not-so-good happens, how do you choose to react? When the dinner you just spent an hour making falls on the floor, or your kids are screaming their heads off, or your work is totally unappreciated… whatever it is… pause and choose how to react. Yes, those examples are all totally me. And they are examples of times that I tend to think very negative thoughts (and react accordingly). But I’m trying to teach myself to pause and switch to more grateful thoughts.
When that dinner fell on the floor, I grabbed my camera, and that photo eventually ended up on an article I wrote that reached hundreds of moms. Rather than see that dinner through an angry lens, I looked at it as an opportunity to share with others. I’m grateful that happened to me! When I am faced with a difficulty, I try to see if I can find something in it to be grateful for. I’m still working on this with the screaming boys…
A Meaningful “Thank You”: The words, “thank you” roll out of my mouth fairly often. But I wonder sometimes if it’s more of a habit than a genuine response. I want to be better about letting other people know how grateful I am for the things that they do and I want them to feel my sincerity.
Sometimes those people nearest to us hear our thanks the least. Should I thank my husband every single Tuesday when he takes the trash and recycling to the curb? Absolutely! And in a wonderful way, the more I thank the little boys for doing the things they are supposed to (brushing teeth and clearing dishes) the more likely they are to do them! Ha!
Beyond our families, there are so many people we interact with during the day. At the office, the store, the doctor, the playground, wherever! A genuine “thank you” can make someone’s day! I will never forget that time I gave a thank you note to a cast member cleaning the bathroom in Disneyland. Talk about feeling light! I want to try giving out more truly grateful “thank yous”!
More than anyone, I want to give on-going, genuine thanks to God. I try not to let my prayers become rushed or thoughtless. This is where I want to pause most of all, to truly feel the gratitude that comes from acknowledging where all things come from. He gets the biggest, most sincere “thank you” of all.
Record It: Pausing to be grateful in the moment is wonderful, but I find that there is even more power in it when I actually record what I am grateful for. I’m a visual person, so I write these things down. If you’re more of an auditory person, try taking a video or an audio recording of what you are grateful for. Or take photos of things that show what you are grateful for. The power of recording it makes connections in our brains that help the gratitude… and all the positive feelings associated with it… stick better!
My journal is where write this down. I know that some people have a specific journal that’s just for gratitude. I just combine mine with all the other things that I’m writing about! But every morning (or most mornings!) I take a minute and type a few things in my journal, including very specific things that I am grateful for that day. For example, this morning’s entry said, “I’m so grateful that J didn’t get sick and he went to school today!” (There was a bit of a scare last night that he was coming down with something!) Believe me, I am really grateful for that!
These days my journal is on the computer (I can type faster than I can write!) but for years I kept journals like these to record my daily thoughts.
Even just writing out this post this morning has turned my thoughts toward things that I am grateful for and put my mind in a more positive place! I’m telling you, it works!
Even on my black-fog brain days, when my mind isn’t working as well, it still helps for me to do these things. My brain isn’t as able to feel and process it as well as it does on the days when I’m more healthy, but many times it keeps me from falling into a spiral of negative thinking and it helps me wait more patiently while I journey back to health.
I’m so grateful for the ways I am learning to make life lighter.
I’m so grateful for this space to share.
Do you have ways that you practice gratitude? I’d love to hear!