We are preparing to take some time from our all too busy lives to stop, pause, and notice the things we are grateful for. To count our blessings. To gather with friends and families celebrating the abundance in our lives. And then, far too often, to quickly move on to shopping, football, and preparing for the next holiday.
Here is my hope for each person reading this piece: that you incorporate a practice of gratitude into your life every day, and not just on Thanksgiving day.
Gratitude is noticing the gifts in our lives and is a gift we can give to ourselves and others. For the practice of cultivating a practice of gratitude yields a varied and stunning array of benefits.
Scientists studying gratitude list dazzling outcomes, including:
- Increased levels of well-being and life satisfaction
- More happiness, better energy, and a higher sense of purpose
- More optimism / less depression
- Improved health, specifically lower blood pressure, better sleep, and a decrease in the use of negative coping strategies (think drugs, alcohol, and other harmful habits)
- Higher levels of control of their environment and an ability to better deal with difficulties
- More personal growth
- Providing a positive impact to others
Another amazing benefit: grateful people also increase their longevity!
When I suggest incorporating a practice of gratitude into our daily routines, I get varied reactions. The most hopeful reaction is one of curiosity. A far more common response is a look of incredulity that I read to mean: “Who are you to ask me to cram one more thing into an already over-scheduled life? Another common response is this one: “I’m really not into all the “woo woo” stuff – and I hate journaling.”
I encourage you to put doubts aside and hear me out. For this is what I’ve found:
- There are many ways to build a practice of gratitude.
- Some involve journaling; many do not.
- None of the practices take more than 5 to 10 minutes a day.
- The reward far exceeds the effort. I can think of no other practice or habit I’ve cultivated that has yielded so much.
So let’s talk “turkey”! How might you begin a practice of gratitude in a mere 5 to 10 minutes a day? Here are four options plus a jump starter. Not five “to do’s.” Five invitations to find a way to reap the rewards of gratitude for yourself and for others.
Pick one. Hang in there for 30 days. Then decide for yourself.
Option 1: Gratitude Journal
Let’s get this one out of the way! It’s my tried and true (going into my 20th year of doing this). It’s simple, it’s easy, and it just takes diligence. Find a journal or notebook you like, and then every evening, write down 3 to 5 things you are grateful for. I personally like The Five Minute Journal, designed especially for a practice of gratitude.
Here is the main thing: you must stay with it. Initially, I was so attuned to noticing the negative that I had difficulty seeing things to be grateful for. But once I did, amazing things began to happen!
Option 2: Write Notes of Appreciation
If you are like me, my life is full of people I am grateful for, but I can be remiss in letting them know I appreciate them. So order some lovely note cards and write one per day. Be specific about what it is that you appreciate about them. These few lines can make someone’s day and have a positive impact on them for a lifetime.
Not much of a paper/pen/stamp person? Email works as well, but it is not as tangible and real as getting mail.
Option 3: Fill Others’ Buckets by Noticing and Naming
As you go through your day, commit to noticing something (or someone) that you are grateful for and say it out loud. You can thank the grocery store clerk for their upbeat attitude. You can appreciate the restaurant server that is doing their best when short-staffed. You can appreciate the person who prepared a meal for you. You can notice and name a team member’s efforts or progress. You can share with a child or young person something special about them. The list is endless and possibilities infinite. And there is perhaps no other way you can invest 2 minutes and make such a difference for yourself and others.
Option 4: Gratitude Picture and Post
True confession – I’ve not done this one, but I’m going to give it a try. Jessica Stephenson has a practice of taking one picture every day of something she is grateful for, which creates a visual gratitude journal. Think about the way looking at these images might buoy you up on a down day. Imagine yourself scrolling through your photos with all these images of gratitude!
Want to spread the joy? Challenge yourself to post your gratitude photo on social media, for as you know, moods are contagious!
Bonus Option: Deep Dive
Shannon Dievendorf taught me this practice in the depths of the pandemic lockdown – and it was one of the most powerful gratitude practices I’ve experienced. Warning – it takes more than 5 minutes, but the impact of this practice will stay with you for a very long time.
Here is how it goes: Find a notebook or journal and a pen. (Yes – write the old-fashioned way). Set your timer for 20 minutes. Begin your gratitude list and write and write and write. Keep writing, even when you feel like you’ve reached a dead end. Keep going deeper and deeper and deeper. Fill pages and pages in your twenty minutes. The destination will stun you!
If you need a perspective shift, this is it. When you are feeling down, this will pull you up.
On a Final Note
And now it is time for me to express gratitude.
- I appreciate the fact that we live in a country where we are free to express our views.
- I appreciate those that had the vision for a nation where freedom of speech was a founding principle.
- I appreciate those who have worked in many ways to secure that right.
- I appreciate all the teachers in my life who taught me how to read and write and encouraged me to learn and grow.
- I appreciate all those who put their thoughts in written form, as blogs or books or posts, for reading is both a passion and a pursuit.
- I appreciate the people who read my work.
- I especially appreciate those that continue the conversation or share back to me what they thought of my work.
So please share and pass along more ideas. What do you do to cultivate a practice of gratitude?