“You simply will not be the same person two months from now… after consciously giving thanks each day for the abundance that exists in your life. And you will have set in motion an ancient spiritual law: the more you have and are grateful for, the more will be given you.”
~Sarah Ban Breathnach, author of Simple Abundance
I love November! It’s the month I renew my gratitude practice. From the beginning of the month all the way to our great American gratitude holiday of Thanksgiving, I try to remember the ways be grateful. A gratitude practice can start out slowly but it becomes a habit as we flow into the hectic month of December.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is much more than being thankful.
Gratitude is thankfulness taken to the next level. It is more intense. It is feelings that range from slightly emotional to tearing up. It is a heart-felt and intellectual acknowledgement of all that is good and maybe not so good in your life. It’s embracing uncertainty. It’s feeling gratitude towards the bad circumstances that have happened knowing that it will lead to a new opportunity.
Why practice gratitude?
There are many reasons to practice gratitude!
• Better physical and mental health – all sorts of studies have shown (for more information go to GreaterGood.com) that gratitude relieves stress, depression, lowers blood pressure and even adds more years to your life. Grateful people even sleep better.
• Better relationships – when you appreciate and are thankful for those in your life it naturally strengthens relationships.
• Better quality of life – you can’t be grateful and feel another negative emotion like anger, worry or envy. But you can be grateful and feel other positive emotions like optimism and joy.
• A sense of contentedness – which I think is true happiness.
How Do You Practice Gratitude?
You can cultivate gratitude. You can learn it. And like all habits, practice will make you better at feeling it.
Try these 7 exercises to practice gratitude and make it into a habit.
1. Start your day and end your evening with the positives of the day. Reflect on something good before you fall asleep and the first moment you wake up even before you put your feet on the ground.
2. Write it down! Next start a gratitude journal. I try to write in a gratitude journal every morning over coffee – just write three things each day. Or just write one amazing thing. It can be small, an event, a person, a feeling or something creative. Remember nothing negative and no material items please. I’m grateful to be able to get to my job each day rather than I’m grateful for my car.
3. Say thanks! I recently read these three simple rules for saying “Thank You”.
1. Simply say the words, “Thank You”.
2. You MUST say it with SINCERITY.
3. You MUST say WHY. (and it helps to explain why in some detail)
So think of someone close to you that maybe you take a little for granted. Thank that person for something simple that they do all the time. Be specific. Be genuine. He or she will be amazed and you’ll feel unbelievably good.
4. Try this exercise: Try thinking about what life would be like without the good things in your life. This could be people in your life, a job or a home for example. What would life be like without these things? Things can always be worse.
5. Watch your language! What kind of words do you use to describe your life? Unlucky, bad day, disappointment, lack of ______? OR do you use words like: lucky, blessed, fortune, fortunate, and abundance? Change to these positive words and others, even if you don’t believe it at first.
6. Do you see your life through your material goods? Are you down when your don’t have enough possessions, your clothes aren’t great, your car is old, you don’t have the latest phone? Try feeling gratitude for air, water, a good night’s sleep, snow, rain, sun and the necessary items that keep us alive.
7. Pay it forward! Try doing this anonymously. We all hear of people buying Starbucks coffee for the person behind them. What about taping a quarter to a gumball machine? Or it doesn’t have to cost anything. What about leaving a cute note on someone’s windshield? And if you have kids, include them in these activities.
Try these seven simple steps and see where it leads at the end of 7 days. Yes, in just seven days you can feel happier! Let me know in the comments below how it works for you or any other ways that you practice gratitude.
“In daily life we must see that it is not happiness that makes us grateful, but gratefulness that makes us happy.”
~Brother David Steindl-Rast