As we all come back to work after celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday, I want to talk about the practice of gratitude. There is a lot of science on how practicing gratitude can improve your life and ultimately make you happier. In fact, studies show that people who practice gratitude experience more positive emotions, sleep better, express more compassion and kindness, and even have stronger immune systems! And if you’re feeling good, you’re also going to increase your productivity.
“Practicing gratitude invites joy into our lives” – Brené Brown
For me, practicing gratitude has helped get me through those incredibly challenging days. Over the course of my career, I’ve become accustomed to tracking my progress and accomplishments in my DevelopHer At-A-Girl Journal (which I offer for free when you purchase my best-selling book, The DevelopHer Playbook). Tracking these things helps me get into the routine of being mindful of all the good that surrounds me on a daily basis. The more grateful I feel, the more inspired I am to keep pushing forward and pursuing my goals.
Five years ago, I got into a horrible car accident that basically left me bedridden. The following Friday, I was laid off from a job I really loved. Then, my partner lost his job the week after that, and I became the breadwinner overnight. Oh – and this all happened right before the holidays. It was an extremely tough situation, but all I could think about was how grateful I was that I hadn’t been paralyzed, that I could still walk, talk, and how fortunate I was to have such great people in my life. I also was thankful for the skills I had acquired over the years and for the power fund I had saved for the unexpected. Because I came from a place of gratitude, I was able to find true happiness in the midst of a lot of physical pain.
That experience led me to ultimately choose a job that really fit what I was looking for in life. It was then that I realized if I could find gratitude during one of the most difficult times in my life, I could find gratitude at any point in my life. And that’s what I want you to be able to do as well.
Build ‘Practicing Gratitude’ into Your Everyday Routine
Try to find something new to be grateful for each day. It can start off small – like being thankful for having a fresh cup of coffee in the morning before a busy day at work or maybe receiving a friendly text from a loved one. Ultimately it’s all of those small precious moments throughout the day that keeps us going – we just have to make sure we’re on the lookout for them. Be specific and try to find new things each day. You’d be surprised at how many moments you have to be grateful for when you practice mindfulness and open your eyes to the world around you.
Do What Works For You
Try taking five to ten minutes out of each day to write down what you’re grateful for. It can be at the start of your day or right before you go to bed. Staying consistent with this routine is vital, so pick a part of the day that fits best into your schedule.
If journaling what you’re grateful for each day starts to feel stale, or you are struggling to fit it into your routine, try to find a way to practice gratitude that will work for you. Consider reaching out to peers or loved ones and letting them know how much you appreciate them. Whenever I do this, I’m constantly reminded of how many incredible people I have in my life. It can be really nice to take a moment out of the busy day to reach out and tell someone how much you care for them – and I guarantee it will make their day feel special too.
Consider starting a gratitude jar! When a moment in the day occurs that you’re thankful for, even the littlest thing, write it on a piece of paper and put it in a jar! At the end of each month, or at the end of the year (you decide!), pull out the papers and read out all of the things you were grateful for.
However you choose to practice gratitude, make sure you’re doing it on a regular basis. And remember that the benefits of practicing gratitude and the overall shift in our minds take time – so be patient with yourself!
Change Your Perspective, Change Your Life
Leading each day with gratitude will ultimately lead to a more fulfilling life. There will always be challenges we have to face, but having the ability to see the good even during the most challenging times helps us push forward. So much of our time and energy is spent focusing on what we don’t have. Practicing gratitude on a daily basis helps us shift our focus and appreciate all of the things that we already have. I encourage you to try it and watch as your perspective and mindset change into a more positive one.