Focusing on gratitude has been a game-changer for me in times of hardship. I’ll be the first to admit how easy it can be to complain, sulk, and not appreciate what I have in life. Last week was especially stressful for me, and I ultimately realized my attitude was running the show and responsible for my bad moods. My inner dialogue was constantly focusing on the negatives instead of the positives; how exhausting! Since I recently starting being mindful of practicing gratitude, I really feel that my life has transformed for the better. (The counselor in me) is a huge fan of cognitive behavior theory, which focuses on the ability to change our thoughts, which will in turn, change our behaviors and attitudes. Gratitude is essentially rooted in CBT theory.
You may be skeptical and think that this gratitude stuff is all a load of crap. However, studies have shown that practicing gratitude promotes longevity, helps lower the risk of depression, eases anxiety, improves mood, lowers blood pressure, increases energy levels, and more. So the question is, why wouldn’t you want to focus on gratitude?
Today, I thought I would suggest 10 different ways to practice gratitude, and just for fun, I listed some little things at the bottom of the post that I am grateful for today.
1.) Keep a gratitude jar
I’ve blogged about my jar before. If you are anything like me, keeping a gratitude journal can be a little overwhelming. I love the idea of keeping a jar because it’s a minimalistic approach, and it literally takes seconds to jot down something that you are grateful for.
I used to think that meditation involved lighting a candle, creating a totally zen space in my living room, crossing my legs, and keeping my mouth shut for an hour. Wrong. Friends, meditation doesn’t have to be this complicated. Simply taking the time out of your day to focus on deep breathing, calming thoughts, and your intentions is what meditation is all about. Meditation can happen when you are driving, when you are going for a walk, or when you are sitting at your desk. Try it out some time!
3.) Treat your friend to lunch or to coffee
Never underestimate the power of a random act of kindness. Share your gratitude by catching up with a friend and treating them to something special.
4.) Reframe the negatives
As I mentioned above, this past week has been especially stressful. When I woke up early last Thursday morning for my internship, I was feeling crabby, sleep deprived, and not especially keen to start my day. I took a moment while sipping on my coffee to think about how I should be grateful that I even have the opportunity to intern at one of the best schools in the state of Wisconsin. Reframing the negatives helped me ultimately look at the situation in a more positive light.
5.) Practice affirming yourself
For your reference I provided a list of 15 affirmations you should say to yourself every morning. Validating myself really helps me to be more grateful, and I think that it will work for you as well.
6.) Send a gratitude card
It always feels good knowing that we are appreciated. I challenge you to send a card to a friend letting them know how grateful you are to have them in your life/ I guarantee that it will not only make their day, but yours as well.
7.) Go for a nature walk
Nature is so self-serving, isn’t it? Sometimes a walk outside in nature is all you need to center yourself and practice thanks. We took time this weekend to look at the changing leave, and it set the tone for my whole day.
8.) Keep a gratitude journal
There are many kinds of awesome gratitude journals out there. Find one that works for you and try to stick with it! Getting in the habit of practicing daily gratitude is a wonderful habit to get into.
9.) Notice the little things
Sometimes, simply taking the time to notice the beauty around us can make all the difference in the world. I have found that living with intention and appreciating the small things in life has brought me so much internal joy. Notice the changing brisk temperatures. Notice a cute baby in the grocery store. Notice how kind your banker is to you.
10.) Indulge in self-care
Taking time for ourselves is always a struggle, at least for me. I wrote a few days ago about my struggle to say “no” and how I’ve been actively working on putting myself first. Taking time to care for ourselves is a wonderful way to appreciate the small joys of life and to be more mindful of what makes us happy.
…And now just for fun, I thought I’d share with y’all a few little things I am grateful for.
-Autumn in Wisconsin
-A strong coffee with french vanilla creamer
-When my favorite song comes on the radio
-Waking up to a clean home
-Apple spice candles
-My mom’s home cooked meals (nothing beats them)
-The way Trevor’s sweatshirt smells
-When someone compliments me
-High-heeled booties that give me instant confidence
-Sweet reader fan emails (I love and appreciate those so much from you guys!)
-My dad’s weird dad jokes
-The french toast from our favorite hometown diner
-The way rain smells
-The love I receive from the kids I nanny/babysit for
-The simple happiness I feel from decorating our home
-Oversized hoodies on a brisk night
-A cold glass of wine on a Friday night
-Waking up feeling fully rested and ready to take on the day
-My caring professors in my counseling grad program
-How loving my future in-laws are towards me
-How close I live to Lambeau Field- something I take for granted, surely.
-How I can literally call my sisters at any given point and I know that they will always be there for me, even if they are both across the state
How do you practice gratitude? What are you grateful for today?
“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”