The holidays are officially here, bringing lots of love, traditions, old and new memories, smiles, and laughter. It’s the time of year that reminds us all to forget about our problems to reflect and feel thankful for all that we’re blessed with. One of these times is that delicious Thanksgiving dinner when we gather hands and share with our loved ones what we’re the most grateful for. So in honor of it being Thanksgiving, I wanted to talk about gratitude!
The word gratitude is one of the biggest buzzwords in the self-help community. Every self-help blogger, speaker, yogi, influencer, YouTuber, entrepreneur, and innovator talks publicly about gratitude and how it has transformed their lives. After all, even Oprah swears by her daily gratitude practice. Since then, the daily habit of practicing gratitude has become trendy. It’s right up there with juicing and brewing Kombucha. We all know what it means, we all understand why it’s important, right? But because gratitude is mentioned so frequently in self-help and so frequently during the holidays, has it become more of a concept rather than a daily practice?
In the words of Jim Kwik, has it become “shelf-help” rather than self-help? Is it like the Kale that we buy at the store to feel healthy, but then slowly rots in our refrigerator? Do we sit around the table at Thanksgiving dinner, but come Monday do we forget about how blessed we are?
I’ll admit it, I forget to feel grateful. I go about my day not thinking at all about how lucky I am to have a home, a family, and a partner. I don’t eat breakfast in the morning and think, “I’m so grateful for this food and for not having to worry where my next meal will come from.” No, I go about my day thinking about the next thing on my to-do list while complaining about traffic and how many blackheads I have. Although I don’t think it’s possible to fill yourself up with the feelings of gratitude all day, 24/7, it is possible and hugely beneficial to incorporate gratitude into everyday life.
What Practicing Gratitude is so Important
Since I started my own daily practice, I’ve noticed a huge shift in my mental and emotional state. Especially after I kept the practice going for a few weeks, I noticed that my mood was improving a little bit each day. It made me happier, helped me sleep better, and shifted my attention away from things that were materialistic or superficial. The more that I practiced at night, the more I felt those feelings of happiness and gratitude naturally and noticed what I was thankful for throughout the day.
Also, according to the internet, grateful people have higher income, get better grades, have fewer fights, are more satisfied with their relationships, get fewer illnesses, and live longer. And we all know that everything you read on the internet is true.
“Wikipedia is the best thing ever. Anyone in the world can write anything they want about any subject – so you know you’re getting the best possible information.” – Michael Scott (The Office)
How I Practice Gratitude
Many months ago, I decided that I would completely change my bedtime routine so that I was spending that time in ways that were beneficial for my mental health instead of numbing myself online. One way that I did this was by creating a gratitude practice right before I fell asleep at night.
Each night before bed, I open up a document on my computer and I start writing about something that I’m grateful for. I don’t just pick a topic like health and write about how I’m thankful to be healthy and happy. It’s never general or basic. I make sure that I’m writing about something specific rather than a broad topic, and that it pertains to my day. By doing this, I’m able to connect with what I’m writing on a deeper level and have stronger feelings of gratitude.
For example, I’ll write about how thankful that I am for having a deep conversation with a good friend of mine. Or I’ll write about how thankful I am for my boyfriend taking care of me when I’m sick. Or about how grateful I am to get a job. It can be big or small. It can be a simple gesture that someone did that made my day, or it can be a big life change. I write as much as I feel like writing on that day. Most of the time it’s one paragraph. Other times, the words keep flowing and I write a whole page. When I feel that I’m done writing, I close the computer, shut my eyes, and meditate on those feelings of gratitude.
When I do this before bed, all of the negative self-talk, the stressors, and the conflicts from my day all melt away. It’s impossible to hold onto negative emotions when I’m doing this exercise. I’m able to drift off in a state of happiness, gratitude, and bliss. That’s what I fall asleep to – not self-comparison, not my to-do list the next day, and not what I have to buy at the grocery store. All I remember before I fall asleep are these feelings of love and gratitude.
The Other Methods
This is how I personally was able to work gratitude into my daily life in a way that works for me. This way might not work for you. I’ve heard of dozens of different ways that people practice gratitude daily, and everyone who practices has there own technique. Most people usually do it in the morning so they start their day off on the right note. But I’m not a morning person AT ALL. I will sleep in until the last possible second and be in a rush all morning. So adding something else to my morning would not work for me, but it may for you.
Some other techniques I’ve heard include:
- Write down one sentence about what you’re thankful for.
- Write down everything that you’re thankful for and don’t stop until the page is full.
- Write down two things…
- Write down three things…
- Write down five things…
- Do it first thing in the morning.
- Do it right before you go to bed.
- Repeat it to yourself throughout the day.
- Buy a gratitude journal that you only use for this practice.
- Write down what you’re thankful for morning and night.
- Visualize and meditate to three things that you’re thankful for right when you open your eyes in the morning.
You get the idea. There’s a lot of different ways that people make this practice work for them. It’s important to figure out which method you enjoy, what time of day, and how much time you want to spend on it. You don’t want to use someone else’s method if it doesn’t resonate with you and bring about those heightened feelings of gratitude. Otherwise, it may feel like homework. Your practice could look completely different than mine. But as long as you find what works for you, you’ll be able to stick with it, and feel thankful every day of the year – not just on the holidays.
For most of us, being grateful every day is more of a concept. It’s something that we think about during the holiday season or randomly when we’re reading a self-help book. On occasion, an influencer might open up about their daily gratitude practice and how it’s helped them, which inspire us to try it for a couple of days. But, it’s almost always forgotten about as we get back to our regular routine. I think that noticing our blessings and feeling thankful for the little things is important even after the holiday season or after the initial inspiration has passed. I would love for everyone to find their own method for incorporating a daily gratitude practice into their lives. I can say first-hand that this simple 5-minute practice can be so beneficial for emotional, mental, and physical health.
Thanks for reading! Do you have a daily gratitude practice? What is it and when do you work it into your daily routine? Have you noticed any benefits? Let me know in the comments!
Photo by Allen Fajardo @alewafeni.