How do we stay positive when the world around us seems to be spiraling out of control? It turns out practicing gratitude can drastically improve your mood, shift your perspective, and help you create a more positive outlook on life.
This morning, I overslept. This meant my wakeup call was our two kids barging into our room, bouncing on our bed, and asking for breakfast.
With our bedroom door open, we started hearing a beeping sound. It was the fridge. My daughter went to check on it and yelled back that there was water all over the kitchen floor.
My husband and I rolled out of bed to take a look. Somehow, the freezer door had been left open all night. Instead of grumbling about it, I found myself thinking how grateful I was for the chance to clean out our freezer which was long overdue.
I found myself thinking “good thing this beef is defrosted and ready for me to cook this afternoon.”
At that moment, I stopped short and thought, THIS is what having a gratitude practice does for your outlook on life. THIS shift in my thought pattern is the importance of practicing gratitude.
Before you wave this off as some woo woo stuff, consider the fact that the benefits of practicing gratitude have been scientifically proven by researchers. In one Berkeley study, they tracked the gratitude practices (or lack thereof) of 3 groups over the course of 10 weeks.
Spoiler alert! The group that focused on the things they were grateful for every day, were happier and healthier.
What does it mean to practice gratitude?
To understand what it means to practice gratitude, you first need to know what gratitude is. Gratitude is the daily state of being appreciative or thankful for tangible and intangible things.
Along the same lines, practicing gratitude means being intentional about finding something to be grateful for in every situation.
This takes time and practice. I used to have a negative bias, meaning I would assume the worst of everyone and everything. My inner voice would automatically say ‘bad’ things were happening because I wasn’t adequate or because I had done something wrong.
To see how far I’ve come with turning around that negative self-talk is an accomplishment that has changed the way I move in all areas of my life.
Wondering how you can incorporate a gratitude practice into different aspects of your life?
Here 6 ways you can start practicing gratitude today.
Start a gratitude journal
At the start of every day, write down the things you are grateful for. Most of us are strapped for time and adding one more thing to our list may not sound appealing. But, I would encourage you to try this for 21 days. At the end of every week or on days you’re feeling down, look through your list. Revisiting your list will be a great reminder and mood-lifter.
In your prayer life
While prayer has always been a big part of my life, I have to say the world is faced with a pandemic that has kicked it up a notch. When we pray, it’s easy to fall into the habit of complaining to God about everything we’ve lost or about our fears. Next time you pray, start by thanking God for everything He has done for you and your family. See if that changes the trajectory of your prayers. This change has definitely helped me come out of my prayer time feeling better!
In your business
Send emails to your clients (even those who have paused or canceled your services) to thank them for being a part of your success. As a community of small businesses, we are going through an unprecedented time. The fact that you are taking the time to let other business owners know you are thinking of them goes a long way. I find that practicing gratitude in business finds its way back to you 10 fold.
With your kids
If your kids are anything like mine, they love to be praised and thanked for a job well done. Focusing on all the things they do well and thanking them for it has 2 benefits. First, you’re probably less likely to get annoyed at them. Second, you will pass your gratitude practice on to them. Kids tend to learn more from the things we DO rather than the things we SAY.
With Your Service Providers
Right now, more than ever, saying thank you to those on the front lines is a must. Being rude to grocery clerks because they don’t have your favorite ice-cream is just plain ugly. Above and beyond your words, this would be a great time to tip generously even when you’re grabbing food to go. You never know how your gratitude will impact others.
With Your Online faves
While many of us are under stay-at-home orders, online content creators have been stepping up their game! From live concerts and DJs to free workouts and digital conferences. Show them some love by sharing their work. Engage with them and let them know you’re enjoying their content. At a time when these creatives are losing income, show them some monetary love on their Patreon or on their Cash App. It takes a lot of effort to create. If you’re grateful for the relief their art brings you, let them hear it from you. Your show of gratitude completes and grows the cycle in a way that benefits you.
This is how I have gone from seeing the worst in everything to now having gratitude for even the smallest things.
So, what are you most thankful for today? How do you hope a gratitude practice will impact your outlook on life?