The Thanksgiving holiday is a great reminder for us to pause and give thanks for all that we have in our lives, BUT gratitude isn't just for Thanksgiving. The research on gratitude lists countless ongoing benefits. Studies have shown that gratitude leads to…
· More positive emotions and higher levels of positive emotions
· More joy, optimism, and happiness, and feeling alive (OH YEAH!)
· Sleeping better
· Expressing more generosity, compassion/kindness
· Stronger immune systems and lower blood pressure
· Being more helpful, altruistic, and compassionate
· Greater life satisfaction and wellbeing
· Feeling more connected to your community/ less lonely and isolated
· Changes in your brain (WHAT? SERIOUSLY!) A study in NeurImage showed that the more you practice gratitude, the more your brain adapts and is wired to feel more thankful…kinda like strengthening a gratitude muscle in your mind.
I don't know about you, but with all that's going on in our world I sure could use a little more of those benefits.
So what does a regular gratitude practice look like?
There are NO rules! It can look like whatever you want it to look like. You can write daily (or weekly) in a gratitude journal (maybe even bust out your art supplies and customize your own gratitude composition journal) …start a gratitude jar and write down things you're grateful for throughout the year and then read them all on NYE…download a gratitude app on your phone…create art to represent what you're grateful for…post a pic on social media and use the hashtag grateful (#grateful) …THE SKY IS THE LIMIT.
If there are so many benefits to having a gratitude practice, then why aren't more people doing it?
Starting a gratitude practice has come up a lot for me in the last few of years. The problem has been sticking to it. I would be good for a week or two, then I skip a day or two…then a whole week…and before I knew it, several months had gone by since I'd opened up my gratitude journal. ARGH!
I found some tips in Happify Daily to help start AND maintain a gratitude practice…
· Notice new and specific things to be grateful for every day—I am grateful for my dogs EVERYDAY! But if I want to tap into all of the benefits I listed above then I need to seek out NEW moments to be grateful for (and I can still be grateful for my dogs everyday too). As I write this, I am grateful that I had the opportunity to visit some family in Houston yesterday. My mom's oldest brother lives there (with his wife, his 7 kids and all of their kids and their kids…). Holidays are a HUGE gathering there and there are sooooo many stories to catch up on. Most people's belly ache on Thanksgiving from food, but mine ached from all of the laughing!
· Reality check your gratitude practice—Yes, get excited about starting a new habit…but be real about the challenges you will face to maintain the habit. For example, if you aren't a morning person (or a night person) then that might not be the best time to schedule your gratitude practice.
· You do you—Remember, there are no rules. Make your gratitude practice fun for YOU. If the thought of writing everyday makes your eyes roll back, then don't do that. For several years, I have had a daily reminder in my phone calendar that prompts me daily at noon by asking "What are you grateful for right now?" This simple practice works for me because no matter what I'm doing at noon, it's a reminder to just pause and take a moment to be grateful.
· Include others—Include the people you are grateful for in your practice by both focusing on people you're grateful for (and expressing it to them) and share what you're grateful for with others. One of my favorite conversations (especially if I'm with someone when my phone dings at noon) is to ask "What are you grateful for RIGHT NOW?"
So how bout it…wanna start a regular gratitude practice? Let’s just start with a baby step in the comments below. Tell me...
What are you most grateful for RIGHT NOW?
PS--heads up to my Austin peeps. I'll be hosting a couple of workshops in December for 2017 intention setting. I'm eying 12/21 and 12/31 as dates. Details to come in the next couple of weeks…let me know if you're interested.