It can be so easy to get caught up in the grind of the everyday. Kids and work don’t make it any easier! At the end of the night, if I have 10 minutes, I usually want to spend it being a vegetable and watch a teensy bit of TV before I crash in my bed. BUT, one of the ways I have maintained a positive attitude and morale in the face of daily pain and chronic illness is by practicing daily gratitude with my husband.
Every night when we get into bed, we spend a little time going over the day and pointing out the things that made us grateful or happy. They are small, like Emma’s word choices that day that are beyond her years. Ever hear a 5 year old say “for example” or “several”? It’s cute and makes me feel good. We have also started taking snaps on snapchat throughout the day of things that make us happy and saving them to our stories. At the end of the night, we save our stories and watch them together. Those sweet moments are saved and can be compiled at the end of the year for a “year of gratitude” video that we do.
The internet is abuzz with how to practice gratitude, but I believe you should use the medium that works best for you and that you can stay consistent with. For me, doing it with John helps maintain the habit. Gratitude loves company, so doing it with a loved one can be the perfect way!
So what is all the fuss about? What makes gratitude important at all? Here are just a few of the numerous reasons to jump on the bandwagon and a couple tips for doing it right.
Gratitude does not come naturally to all of us. For myself I struggled with positivity and being grateful before having my daughter because I had been a pessimist all my life. But once I had this new little life in my hands, watching everything I did and who would copy my example, it became clear I had to change. It took time and practice, but I was able to change my mindset to one of positivity and general optimism. The benefits of gratitude are small when you look at them on a daily basis, but cumulatively they have a huge impact. Which is why you need to be consistent with the habit. You are training your brain to think differently and rewire the way it interprets your experiences. I promise after 6-8 weeks of doing it, you will feel a difference!
Here are some key things to remember to have the best impact.
See the little things:
Gratitude works best when you start looking for small things. It is easy to be thankful for big things that happen in your life, like a promotion. But it is important to appreciate the little things, because those are the things that will be there even when you are having a bad day or things feel like they are going wrong. You can pretty much always find small things to be grateful for and when you remind yourself of them, you will get the happiness boost you need to keep on going.
It is very important to be specific about what you are grateful for. Simply saying “I’m grateful for my family” is not enough. In order to help your brain rewire, you need to drill down to what exactly it is about your family you are grateful for. A better example would be, “I’m grateful we took a family walk and had time to talk about our day.” This forces your brain to relive the good memory and get all the good feelings that go along with it.
Sharing the exercise with others in your life not only helps you bond with them, but can help you stay accountable. I practice gratitude with my husband and the act of doing it brings us together and makes us feel connected to each other, even on the craziest days where I barely had a chance to talk to him.
Share with others:
Expressing gratitude with others for what you appreciate about them or your relationship with them will strengthen your bond and gives them the gift of good feelings they probably really need. I have a lot of clients who order stationery specifically to use for writing letters of gratitude to others in their lives. These are different from thank you notes, where you are thanking a person for a specific action they did for you. Letters of gratitude acknowledge the impact that person has in your life and the qualities they possess that you appreciate. Send a couple of these and wait for the reactions people have. I guarantee you will want to keep sending them because sending gratitude actually gives us good feelings too!!
Stick with it:
Gratitude is a skill that takes time to develop. As you get better at it, you will be able to ignite the happiness feelings by just taking a moment to appreciate things on the fly.