Need a happiness boost? Learn how to develop a gratitude practice beyond the typical "thank you."
As a little girl, I was always taught to be polite and say "thank you" as often as I could. Little did I know the immense power of those two beautiful words.
If you've ever made a conscious effort to improve the quality of your life, the concept of practicing gratitude is not exactly news. But do you know why gratitude is so important? Whatever we focus our energy and attention on grows and expands in our life. The more we focus on what we appreciate, the more likely we'll attract more of those things into our lives. Sounds like a pretty good deal, right? A few minutes of gratitude each day and we'll have even more to look forward to in the future. Plus, studies show that practicing gratitude regularly can increase your level of happiness by 25%. So what exactly do you need to do to practice gratitude? As with anything, there is no right or wrong way to do it. As long as you're coming from an appreciative mindset on a regular basis, you're golden.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Gratitude Journal: Writing down what you are grateful for each day is a great way to keep your mindset on track. Not only will you experience an immediate energy shift, but you'll have a bank account of positivity to reference whenever you need a pick-me-up. Try keeping a notebook next to your bed and writing a few notes each night. Challenge yourself to come up with new items each time. Many times focusing on your smaller and less obvious blessings provides the greatest shift.
- Prayers: If the thought of writing down your gratitude notes each day sounds too much like work, don't worry about it. All it takes is a few thankful thoughts each night before you fall asleep. If you consider yourself a spiritual person, turning this ritual into a conversation with your Higher Being can be an even more powerful process.
- Favorites Game: I love playing this game with my son. I always ask him to explain the favorite part of his day before he falls asleep. He doesn't really know he's practicing gratitude, but all it takes is that little energy shift to end the day on a positive note.
- Funny Moment Collection: Consider placing a jar and a small notepad in your kitchen or family room. When something funny happens, capture the moment or a hilarious quote on a piece of paper and drop it into the jar. Once a year, make it a tradition to sit down as a family and take turns reading the notes in the jar. This is a fun exercise to plan for New Year's Eve.
- Rambling: When I find myself always being grateful for the same obvious things (health, family, career, etc.), I like to stretch myself through a rambling exercise. Grab your spouse or loved one and sit down together. Take turns rambling for a few minutes about what you are grateful for. Speak nonstop and as quickly as possible. Say whatever comes to mind. Focus on little things — even if they seem ridiculous: "I'm grateful for the way the sun shines into our home and illuminates our family picture each night. I'm grateful that I remembered to keep my new blouse out of the dryer."
- Descriptive "Thanks:" The word "thanks" flows so easily from our mouths that many times we don't focus on what we mean by it or we don't even hear it. If you want to give your gratitude practice a turbo-charge, tell the person why you are thanking them. It will make the interaction more personal and will trigger a greater feeling of appreciation. Instead of "Thanks," try something like, "Thank you for holding the door so I didn't have to put all of these packages down."
- Compliments: We've all been guilty of taking someone's actions for granted at one time or another. Make it a regular habit to tell those around you what they mean to you. Compliment them. Remind them of their strengths. Not only will you feel happier, but you'll strengthen your relationship and boost the confidence of your loved one.
- Silver Linings: Whenever you are faced with a decision or even find yourself feeling stuck in an undesirable situation, challenge yourself to focus on what you are gaining instead of what you are losing. Similarly, when you find yourself dwelling on old painful memories, ask yourself what blessings came out of the situation. There are always silver linings. What did you learn? What did you gain?
As with anything, some of these exercises may resonate with you and some may not. Keep what works for you and what feels good to you, and discard the rest. If you find yourself struggling with shifting to a more appreciative mindset, I invite you to contact me for a complimentary strategy session to devise a plan specifically for you.