Ok before I get started on the topic of gratitude a little disclaimer is in order. I have no intention of telling you that you should be grateful for everything because that is not realistic or helpful. We all have bad days and bad situations and in these moments of misery it is sometimes impossible to see anything to be grateful for. I say take those days and live it, every feeling is part of the journey so try to avoid forcing yourself to be anything else.
With that in mind, what I want to talk about is the power of gratitude and how you can use it to help shift your mind-set. So what’s the point I hear you ask, well there is a lot of research out there to suggest that people who practice gratitude are happier, less stressed and are more likely to achieve their goals. I mean, that sounds good right? Happy overachievers? You could always argue that this is a placebo effect but I must say, happy to take the placebo if this is the outcome.
By definition gratitude means feeling thankful and that really can be for anything. Practising gratitude draws your attention to the good and positive elements in your life. Now that doesn’t mean we are ignoring the negative or living with blinkers on. It simply means that where you may have noticed the bad, we are rebalancing the scales and highlighting some little wins – hence feeling happier in general.
Now if you google practising gratitude, brace yourself there are MANY tips on how to practice within your daily life. A few recurrent tips I have seen are incorporating regular gratitude meditation into your day or keeping a gratitude journal – don’t forget to be grateful you remembered… Ok so you can probably tell that I am not the biggest fan of convoluted answers to simple questions, they just don’t feel all that sustainable. If like me you have a busy schedule and no time to keep your gratitude journal up to date then keep reading. I want to share with you my take on how practising gratitude works for me and the benefits I have noticed.
I like to think of gratitude practice as more of a reflective exercise, there is no reason to write it down but feel free if that’s your preference. Just whenever you get a chance, when it comes to your mind – what have you got to be grateful for? It could be strong friendships and family connections, schools reopening or like me that 4pm meeting on Friday cancelled at the last minute. If you look around your day you will find there are little nuggets of joy. Sometimes they are big things but mostly they’re the smaller wins, the kindness in someone else’s actions, the ‘phew’ moments and the ‘thank gosh that’s over’. It boils down to the overlooked blessings sitting between each day and sometimes, the things that didn’t happen.
I try to squeeze some reflective moments somewhere in my day (admittedly this doesn’t always happen). Because practising gratitude requires you to be in the moment, it is useful as a mindfulness practice too as it gives you some dedicated time to really be with your thoughts and be present. I have found that taking some time to focus on the things I am grateful for has given me a more optimistic outlook and I have felt a shift in my mood as a result. It isn’t hard to practice gratitude but it requires you to take the time to look a little bit harder at your day and the often underappreciated parts of it.
So why not give it a go, remember this is a ritual not a routine so make it count. Have a think about your day today and if there is anything you feel grateful for, small things that went well or better than expected – you may find there is a lot more than you first thought.