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Did you ever think gratitude would be something you’d need to practice? It may seem an odd thought, but in our current climate, being grateful is a simple concept that seems to go by the wayside. Whether it’s social media “likes,” picture-perfect influencer posts, or the many other distractions vying for our attention, we're trained to want more — looking to the little dopamine hits of tomorrow instead of celebrating the day at hand.
But what if we flipped the narrative? What if we took time to reflect on all we have — redefining gratitude in ways that pull us out of our tunnel vision and let us find true fulfillment? Even the subtlest of shifts in the stories we tell ourselves can translate to more happiness.
It all starts when we adopt simple ways to practice gratitude in our daily lives...
At the end of the day, gratitude doesn’t have to be limited to the big things (family, friends, homes, jobs), or the next thing (purchases, performance, paychecks). It can be as small as a sudden realization in the most everyday of moments. At the heart of this is the simple acceptance that we're lucky to attend today's yoga class, fortunate to be in good enough health to participate, and able to take time for the experience.
Such a realization means more than just a fleeting fuzzy feeling. It pays off in dividends for our mental, emotional, and physical health:
Research has shown that writing in a gratitude journal three times per week can actually have an impact on our happiness. Most of us assume we can just think these grateful thoughts in our head, like many of us probably frequently do (and it's a great start!). But, the physical act of actually writing them down is where the true power lies.
Try to focus on the people or things you’re grateful for. For example: “I’m grateful for my sister’s funny texts every day,” instead of just “I’m grateful for my sister.”
Keep it close at hand.
Keep your journal in a convenient place where you see it and remember to write. Maybe it’s on the table where you eat breakfast so you notice it first thing in the morning. Or, on your nightstand so you can jot a few thoughts down before going to sleep.
Give yourself a reminder.
Set a reminder or alert in your phone or calendar to help you remember to take pause, grab a pen, and do some quick writing.
Go digital if it's easier.
If you’re not a pen and paper kind of person you can digitally chronicle grateful thoughts in your phone, computer, or other favorite device. There’s certainly no right or wrong place to be thankful.
An ancient practice for Buddhist monks, Tibetan monks, Native Americans, and many other groups, gratitude meditation is a type of meditation focused on channeling gratitude for the people and things in your life.
You may associate meditation with sitting very still in a quiet room. And while that’s definitely one method, gratitude meditation can happen anywhere, at any time — simply by clearing your mind and focusing on a single mantra.
Try it first thing in the morning after you’ve hit your snooze button one or two (or ten) times, as you drive to work, while walking the dog, or in the shower when you have a few moments of peace. It can even make everyday, mundane tasks like household chores a little more enjoyable.
We all know how powerful images can be. Most of us probably have a camera roll full of thousands of photos we look through every now and again, reminiscing about the meaningful moments or people that pop up on our screens. Having these photos physically out and on display can be an instant way to create a constant and ever present reminder of your gratitude for the things in your life that matter most.
Consider printing a few of those photos out every so often and placing them around your house, car or office. You can even display photos without a frame if that's more your style — just prop them up and enjoy simple reminders that there's much to be thankful for.
Turn it into a gratitude wall.
Simply print your favorites and tape them up on a wall you see every day (make sure to use removable tape, like painter’s or washi tape, so you don’t damage those walls). You can also include meaningful sentimentals like show tickets. Then, take a little time to admire it whenever you pass by. It’s an enjoyable exercise in getting in touch with gratitude — not to mention a great way to practice it, every day.
Photo By @withlovedani
Once upon a time, photo albums were always physical books displayed on a coffee table or a bookshelf, instead of folders inside our phones or computers. Or scrapbooks, brimming with meaningful pictures and souvenirs from special moments or places visited. (Some of us probably still have these old albums — or at least our parents do!)
You could easily call them “Gratitude Books,” because they’re filled with the people or little tokens that are important to us. They were and are a way to preserve all the things big and small, that, when woven together, create the fabric that tells our story.
Sitting down to create a photo book is putting gratitude into practice. With each photo, you remember why it was taken — an instant return ticket to a moment otherwise gone. Then, you bring them together to tell a story, whether by theme or event or just completely random and beautifully unordered.
We all lead busy lives and time is one of our most precious assets. So here are some quick and easy little ways to show gratitude on even the most hectic of days:
Feeling grateful for what you have and taking a few moments to reflect on it can do wonders for your mood and wellbeing. Finding ways to practice gratitude in your life can give you a greater sense of feeling more connected to others and a more optimistic outlook on life, not to mention better sleep quality.
So here's to gratitude-ing. No, that's not a word — but perhaps it's time we made it one.
Put Your Gratitude on Display
Lindsey Kaufman Palan is a freelance writer and creative director who’s new(ish) to the mom game and would really love a nap. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband Dan and their babe, Jack. You can follow her adventures in writing (and eating) @linzfaryl.