For the past 25 or so years, I have maintained a gratitude practice. I haven’t been able to make a meditation practice stick, nor convinced myself that riced cauliflower is the food of the Gods (I mean, hello ~ chocolate!)….but apparently, gratitude I can do.
Each night before bed, I aim to write down three things that I’m grateful for that day. My morning run. Time to myself. Chai Tea. The goal is not to repeat any gratitudes, as best I can, from the previous days— I try not to repeat anything in the same year. On good days, this is easy. On the rough ones, I cast my net wider and often start to be grateful for different body parts. My legs for their strength. My feet for carrying me through the day. My nose for smelling delicious meals. I know I’m at the end of my rope when I’m grateful for my toes, or when I’ve shifted from body parts to things that didn’t happen—a “it could have been worse” method.
Even, and perhaps especially, on the rough days, I know that my gratitude practice is the attitude adjustment I need. This daily practice makes me a better (nicer) person. Being grateful shifts my focus from lack to abundance; from all that’s not right to the one little thing that is going my way; from aches and pains to love and light. Plus, doing it right before bed relaxes my nervous system and allows a sense of calm to wash over me.
This month, I invite you to take a moment and shift your gaze inward. Do you currently have a gratitude practice? If not, now is the perfect time to begin. If you do have one, spice it up a little! Gratitude practices are good and good for you. Research shows that expressing gratitude can boost happiness during the fall and winter months, and can even help make your positive memories stronger.
Begin your practice today:
- Breathe deeply. Take a moment to reflect on what matters most.
- Grab a notebook (actual pen and paper for this one). The type of notebook doesn’t matter, but one with some room so you can capture a full year.
- At the end of each day, before you go to bed, write down three to five things for which you are grateful. You don’t have to write in full sentences. Simply jot down items that mean something to you, and upon reflection, you’ll be able to pull up the memory. If you can’t think of anything, begin with your body or your surroundings. Fresh air. Green grass. Water. Food. Strong arms. Flexible feet. Something. If you have a current gratitude practice, challenge yourself to find new gratitudes. Choose a focus each month or practice being grateful out loud.
- Repeat every night as best you can. You’ll miss a night or two for sure. You might even miss a week or two. Keep at it. This practice helps to mark time and rereading can remind you of where you’ve been, and what’s been happening in your life. This can help identify patterns and showcase when you thrive as well as struggle.
Like anything, cultivating gratitude can take practice and mindfulness. But the more you get in the habit of being grateful, the more things you find to be grateful for. Enjoy this month of Thanksgiving, and the turn toward the holiday season. While there is much stress in our world, there are many things to shine the light of gratitude on. Find those things!
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