Gratitude unlocks the key to life! It turns what we have into enough. It turns a house into a home, a meal into a feast, a stranger into a friend.
Here are 5 things you can do today to help you cultivate your very own gratitude practice:
1 – Keep a daily gratitude journal.
Each day, write down three things that you are thankful for. That’s it. Three things. I recommend you do this first thing in the morning (this will help you set up your day for success), and before you go to bed at night (this will help you to fall asleep more easily and peacefully).
Something I have been doing personally for the past 4 years, is keep a Gratitude Jar. I write down anything good that happens on a little piece of paper (this can be something as small as watching a beautiful sunrise to as big as an over seas trip), and then fold it up and put it in the jar.
We have a tradition that on New Years Eve every year, my husband and I read out all the happy notes from the year just passed, and reminisce on all the good things we experienced (you will be amazed at how much you forget!).
As the jar fills, you’ll have a physical representation; something you can see and touch of all the many things you have to be grateful for. But you don’t have to wait until the end of the year to read your notes like we do. Any time where you feel like you are stressed or have anxiety, you can just reach into the jar and be reminded of something that you can appreciate in that moment.
2 –Make it a practice to tell someone you appreciate them
I once heard someone say that feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like wrapping a present and not giving it. Set a reminder in your phone to tell someone you appreciate them; Call them, write them a love note, a text message/email. Give the gift of gratitude.
Make a practice with loved ones, share gratitude as a family, maybe at the dinner table or in meetings at work etc.. My husband & I made vows on our wedding day that we would not let each other go to sleep at night until we each expressed what we felt grateful for that day. Try it!
3- Compliment yourself.
It’s helpful to have a trigger like brushing your teeth (or something you do everyday), and while you are doing that, allow that to remind you to think of something you like about yourself. It can be something you did, something you accomplished, or something about yourself. Maybe it’s an inner characteristic that you really appreciate about yourself. It could be anything at all. But start to compliment yourself and notice how you feel. At first it might be really uncomfortable or hard to find something, but with practice it will train your brain to notice the good things about YOU (because there are so many!!).
4 – Practice Mindfulness.
If you’re always thinking about the next thing, always caught up in your to-do lists, it’s difficult to really appreciate the present. In order to be able to have gratitude, you must be present. So take a breath, and slow life down. Sometimes you have to slow down to be able to speed up.
Spend time in nature, away from devices, screens, distractions that can cause stress, that can tax your nerves or challenge your peace of mind. Your body and mind will thank you for it!
Remember, the more grateful you are the more present you become.
5 – Reduce judgments.
It’s that inner critic that keeps you from feeling gratitude.
There is a Taoist story of an old farmer who had worked his crops for many years. One day his horse ran away. Upon hearing the news, his neighbours came to visit. “Such bad luck,” they said sympathetically.
“Maybe,” the farmer replied. The next morning the horse returned, bringing with it three other wild horses. “How wonderful,” the neighbours exclaimed.”Maybe,” replied the old man. The following day, his son tried to ride one of the untamed horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. The neighbours again came to offer their sympathy on his misfortune. “Maybe,” answered the farmer. The day after, military officials came to the village to draft young men into the army. Seeing that the son’s leg was broken, they passed him by. The neighbours congratulated the farmer on how well things had turned out. “Maybe,” said the farmer.
Just remember you determine what things mean.
There’s another story that I really like that also fits in quite well here. It’s about a family with twin boys whose only resemblance to each other was their looks. If one felt it was too hot, the other felt it was too cold, if one said the TV was too loud, the other claimed the volume needed to be turned up. They were opposite in every single way. One was an eternal optimist and felt gratitude. The other was doom and gloom – a total pessimist.
In an attempt to balance the twins extreme personalities, on their birthday, their father loaded the pessimists’ room with every imaginable shiny new toy and game, and he loaded the optimists’ room with nothing but a big a pile of horse manure. That night the father past by the pessimists’ room and found him sitting amongst all the new gifts crying bitterly. When the father asked him why he was crying, the boy blurted out ‘my friends have better toys than this, I’ll have to read all these instructions before I can do anything with this stuff, I need batteries and my toys will eventually get broken…’
Passing the optimist twin’s room the father found him dancing for joy in a pile of manure. He asked why he was so happy to which the optimist twin replied ‘With all this manure there has to be a pony in here somewhere!’
What’s the message here? The message is nothing is positive, nothing is negative, it’s thinking that makes it so, and gratitude is a state of mind. It is a state of heart. It is something that with practice, we can all cultivate!
The more you practice gratitude, the more aware you are of it, the more you and your brain can enjoy all the benefits!
So what do you have to be grateful for today?