Practicing Gratitude

10th Sep 2019

This month here are Levana Bratique, we’re focusing on gratitude and self improvement. I have to admit, some days, gratitude flows freely from my lips. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, I'm making it out the door on time with my young kids, and life feels good, like the whole world is giving me a warm hug. Other days, we’re running late again amidst a morning filled with whining and tears, I’m trying really, really hard not to yell, my to-do list for the day exceeds the number of available hours, and oh, look at that, my car won’t start. It’s 7:30am, and I’m already feeling defeated, like the whole world is giving me the middle finger. Those days, it can be a little harder for me to generate any feelings of happiness.

Brene Brown (who researches courage, vulnerability, shame, and empathy) says gratitude comes before joy, as in, when we practice gratitude we actually invite joy into our lives. The key here is actually practicing gratitude- doing at least one thing every day that gives you an opportunity to express gratitude for something in your life.

According to this article, a 2003 study showed a myriad of benefits for people that were keeping a daily gratitude journal: they exercised more regularly, reported fewer physical symptoms, felt better about their lives as a whole, and were more optimistic. They were also more likely to make progress towards their goals and have better sleep quality. Ummm…yes to all of that, please!

I’ve had good intentions to keep a gratitude journal in the past, but have never gotten past more than a few entries before it was cast aside as one more thing on my ‘to do’ list. I have to tell you, seeing all of the benefits of practicing gratitude are making me rethink it. Maybe I could make it as simple as jotting something into my phone while I’m waiting in line? There are even a number of gratitude apps for your phone that may help you stay on task. (I just downloaded both ThinkUp and Gratitude.)

I make it a point to sit at the table and eat dinner with my kids. We say grace, and then afterwards I’ll ask them to tell me one good thing about their day. I’ll also ask them if there was anything sad or bad that happened (to try to talk about how to deal with negative emotions). Brene said she uses that time to ask her kids one thing they are grateful for, and I’m planning to adopt this prompt for them as well. I'd love to cultivate gratitude in my kids from an early age, and it's a great reminder for me, too.

Here are a few more suggestions for practicing gratitude (some of these are plucked from a longer list from the article above):

-Find a gratitude partner. Love this. I have a few people I text with on the daily that would make great gratitude partners. I’ve definitely found I’m more likely to stick with new habits or changes when I have someone helping to hold me accountable.

-Meditation, yoga, prayer. Take a few moments to be still, quiet your mind, and think on the things that are good. I’ve tried to do this when I first wake up, but I’m really not a morning person, so this is a struggle for me. Mornings are also when I’m going through my mental checklists of everything that needs done for the day. It’s easier for me to do this at night while I’m lying in bed, and I’ve found it’s just nicer to drift off to sleep with the warm fuzzy feelings that gratitude brings, rather than going over all of the things that I didn’t get done that day.

-Avoid negative media and movies with destructive content. I stopped watching the news a few years ago, and pared down my social media usage to almost nil; I’ve found that both gave me anxiety.

-Post quotes and images that remind you to be grateful around your house. Ever since college, I’ve collected quotes that I love. Sometimes they are inspiring, or motivating, or sometimes they just make me chuckle (Jack Handey, anyone?).
"Gratitude turns what we have into enough." Aesop
“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey

What are some ways you’ve incorporated practicing gratitude in your life? Or some ways you'd like to start?

Photo by Freshh Connection on Unsplash