Gratitude is certainly the practice de jour these days and hells yes for that. Recent research from Harvard, UC Davis, and UC Berkeley just to name a few shows that having a regular gratitude practice can have the following positive effects:
- Stronger immune systems
- Lower blood pressure
- Sleep longer and feel more refreshed
- Have more optimism and happiness
- Are more forgiving
- Are more outgoing
And these are just a few of the long list of awesome things a gratitude practice can give you. And might I add my own finding: When you practice gratitude, it’s really hard to feel sorry for yourself and/or to be an a-hole to people. Therefore, gratitude is good. (Tweet that!)
Several years ago I found myself laying in the fetal position on the floor of my apartment. It was my true rock bottom, and at that moment I could see NO way that things could get better. I was in a tremendous amount of emotional pain. I had heard about gratitude and was so desperate for relief, I thought I would give it a shot—although quite honestly I didn’t think I could come up with anything that was going well in my life. After about 20 minutes, I had a list of 10 things I was grateful for. Things like my physical health, friends and family, and my education. I remember looking at the paper and being surprised that my life really wasn’t as shitty as I thought it was. Gratitude was the thing that truly helped me pull myself out of the place of despair that I was in. When I work with people 1 on 1 or in classes, I always ask if they have a gratitude practice. They either say no, or tell me they sometimes think about things they are grateful for. That’s a good start, but let’s giddyup on your practice and make it awesome. There’s no shame in really not knowing how to do this and it’s so powerful I would love for everyone to know practical ways to practice it in their everyday life. Here are some ways to do it:
- Write it down. First thing in the morning is great, but if you can’t, do it at the end of the day. List as many as you can. Even if you feel like things are going all wrong, writing out 3 or more things you’re grateful for can completely shift your attitude.
- Express it to others. Say it in person, call, text, email or send Morse code to the people you are grateful for. I admit I don’t do it often enough (although I just did after writing this, pinky swear) but actually expressing gratitude out loud to another human being can have immense energy and power behind it.
- Journal about your future and the feelings you’re going to be grateful for. You’re basically writing journal entries as if it’s in the future and you got exactly what you want, focusing on how you FEEL. If this feels too “woo-woo” journal about what you want to be grateful for one year from now.
- Make it a practice to say your gratitudes with your family and/or partner. Or your co-workers or anyone you see on a regular basis. Someone I know has a company email that goes around and everyone types up their gratitudes quickly (takes 30 seconds to 1 min). I’ve started doing this at dinner with my husband and kids. Make it habitual.
- When you find yourself worried and “future tripping” think about what you are grateful for right now in this moment. Because that’s really all you got. We all worry from time to time, but I want you to start catching yourself in those moments and making an intentional effort to say gratitudes instead of your worries.
- When you find yourself comparing your life to someone else’s, get your gratitude on. Even if you feel your life is really sucky right now. If you’re on Facebook or Instagram and are thinking so-and-so has no problems and has the best life ever and you’ll never get there: Stop (collaborate and listen) and tell yourself what’s going awesome and what’s working in YOUR life.
- When you find yourself wanting to be in a different phase of your life, practice gratitude. Maybe you just got dumped. Or fired. It’s so easy to focus on the bad, especially when it’s fresh and right in front of your nose. And I would never expect you to just get dumped or fired and start running through fields of flowers shouting your gratitudes. Howevah…that’s why it’s called a gratitude PRACTICE. Practice focusing on what you want. Practice thinking about hard times being new beginnings. This is about creating a new way of thinking that gains momentum and sticks.
Bottom line: Make gratitude your go-to tool. It’s uncomplicated and free.
And last… Gratitude is like praying for what you want more of. Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want. Choose wisely. (Tweet that!)