14 ways to change your life with a gratitude practice
I often describe gratitude as the well-being wonderdrug. It has a positive impact in multiple ways, from greater happiness, to better health, to reduced stress.
As part of my series on learning to love your life at work, I was initially going to dive deeper into the benefits of gratitude. Then I remembered the mother of all gratitude posts, 31 benefits of gratitude. So I decided to link to that and focus on ideas for developing a gratitude practice.
Most of the ideas here can be applied during your work day. I’m including a wider range of ideas because you don’t live in a work silo. The gratitude habit you develop in your whole life is the gratitude habit you will bring to work.
1. Take stock of the obvious
The first step is just to sit down and take stock of what you’re grateful for. Look around at your life in 360 degrees. What jumps out at you as obvious things you feel grateful for? Start making a list.
2. Keep a gratitude journal
At its simplest, a gratitude journal can entail sitting down before bed each night and writing down three to five things you can feel grateful about that day. Try to really feel the gratitude, as opposed to making it just an intellectual exercise.
If you want to go deeper, you might try something like keeping a Positive Journal.
3. Keep an ongoing gratitude list
Start with the initial list you made in your initial taking stock. Over time, keep adding new things to the list. You could even try doing a one (or more) a day challenge, adding at least one new thing to be grateful about every day.
These two posts on my Ripple Revolution blog have some good questions to ask as gratitude prompts:
Pull the ever-growing list out on a regular basis and review the entire list, pausing to let yourself feel the gratitude.
4. Create gratitude reminders
Put up gratitude reminders to help you remember to look for things to be grateful for. Maybe you put up sticky notes where you will regularly see them. Maybe you print out the words “Thank You” and put it in a frame. Play with whatever will help keep gratitude awareness top of mind.
5. Take a gratitude walk
Go out for a walk with the intention of noticing things to feel grateful for. That might be a beautiful sunny day, or the way the rainy day is making the grass so vividly green, or the feeling of your legs moving, or the fact that your body works as well as it does. Once you start looking, you might be amazed at how much there is to feel grateful for.
6. Take a gratitude drive
This is similar to a gratitude walk, except you do it in the car. You can use any ol’ time behind the wheel – your commute, running errands, taking the kids to soccer practice – to practice finding things to be grateful for.
7. Have a gratitude meal
If you sit down with family for a meal on a regular basis, try making one of those meals a gratitude meal on a regular basis. Each person in turn can share something they’re grateful about, maybe even why they’re grateful, and what it means to them.
I love the idea of making this a frequent occurrence, especially with kids. The more our minds know they’re going to be called on with a “gratitude quiz,” the more they start to take note throughout the day. Imagine planting those seeds with your kids!
8. Find a gratitude partner
Just like having a workout partner helps you stay committed to going to the gym, having a gratitude partner can help you stay engaged in your gratitude practice. That might look like, for example, a weekly meeting over coffee where each of you share the main gratitude themes you’re noticing in your lives.
9. Use complaints as gratitude triggers
Want to feel more gratitude, but really feel more like an old crankypants? Fear not! You can use your crankitude as a starting point. When you notice yourself kvetching, use that as a signal to shift your focus. “OK, yeah, that’s irritating. Now, what am I grateful for?”
10. Pick a daily gratitude theme
Try giving each day a daily theme. Maybe one day is “people.” Maybe another day is “visual.” Another day might be “learning.” Brainstorm a list of possible themes, pick one, and look for gratitude opportunities in that theme.
11. Keep a gratitude jar
Find a jar or some other container, and cut up some small slips of paper. Every time you notice yourself feeling grateful about something (even small things), write it down on one of those slips and put it in the jar.
Besides giving you a focus for your gratitude (and the kinesthetic reinforcement of writing it down and physically putting it in the jar), as the contents of the jar grows it gives your a gratitude grab bag of sorts. You can reach in and grab a slip at random for a little gratitude reminder.
12. Practice gratitude in bed
I love this one. When you wake up in the morning, before getting out of bed, lie there and do a gratitude check. Then, when you go to bed at the end of the day, do the same thing. It doesn’t need to take long, but it catches your mind at some of the times when it is most receptive.
13. Do a gratitude meditation
If you’re a meditator, explore making gratitude a central focus on a regular basis. That might focusing on one thing you’re grateful for, or on the feeling of gratitude, or even letting your mind go from gratitude point to gratitude point.
14. Download a gratitude app
Do a search for gratitude apps for your smartphone. There are a lot of them out there.
Make it an experiment
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to this. I encourage you to take these ideas (as well as any others you might come up with), pick something that resonates most, and experiment with it. See how it works. See how you like it, and what effect it has.
From there, you can either continue with it, integrating it more deeply into your habitual mode, or launch another experiment.
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Brought to you by Curt Rosengren, Passion Catalyst TM
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