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Deep Dive: Gratitude, Practicing Gratitude Week Four

My gratitude practice is something that I have added into my morning routine. I usually start the day with a meditation with Zach to get me into the right headspace and through this, I am able to clear my mind of any pain, worry and self doubt or negativity that I might be feeling. I am able to open myself up to the things that I am feeling most grateful for in that moment.

Some of the things on my list are the same each day – I am grateful for my husband, my son and the rest of my family. I am grateful to be in a beautiful place and have the things I need to survive. I am grateful just to still be alive.

Some of the things change all the time and can even hit me by surprise. I might be grateful for new knowledge I learned the day before. I might be grateful for someone who was willing to confront me about a mistake I made. Maybe I got a customer letter that showed me why I work so hard at this business.

Forming a gratitude practice is a very personal thing and incorporating it into your regular life’s routine is not something that will likely happen overnight. At first, it might feel like a chore or like the time could be better spent elsewhere. But it is something that grows in value the more you do it. At least it has for me.

I hope you are able to find tools here to help you create a great practice!

-Karla

In its purest form, it simply asks you to create a list of things in your life that you are currently grateful for at any given moment. There are a few different ways that people choose to practice gratitude. The most common ways are through gratitude meditation or by keeping a gratitude journal. We are going to look at each of these options, with their benefits and who they might be best for.

Benefits:
  • Invites you to find a calm and quiet space to reflect and find peace
  • Allows you to sink into your body and connect with yourself on a spiritual and emotional level while tapping into your gratefulness
  • Provides space and practice for mindfulness while concentrating on your breath and body in the moment
Potential Drawbacks:
  • Requires a dedicated quiet place
Who Is It Best For?
  • People who already have experience with mindfulness through meditation or yoga practices
  • Those who wish to build more command over mindful thoughts

When you’re building a gratitude meditation, it can be beneficial to start by following a guided meditation. There are several available for free online, offered by doctors and meditation specialists. Each of these will take you through a section that is meant to get you focused on the present, usually through concentrating on your breath and body. Then, it will move you through different thoughts of gratitude.

Here are a couple that you might want to try:

This video by The Mindful Movement includes a 5-minute guided meditation that includes soothing music, helping you to create a calm and open space to practice.

This 10-minute Gratitude Meditation by Berkeley’s Greater Good in Action includes not only an audio of a guided meditation with Dr. Kathi Kemper, but also has a transcription of the entire meditation and an explanation on why this process works with supporting texts.

Benefits: 
  • It is both a physical and mental task, making it easier to stay present during this exercise
  • The act of journaling has been proven to help regulate emotions
  • It creates a list that you can go back to when you are feeling less optimistic
Potential Drawbacks:
  • It can invite more judgement of what you put down on paper
Who Is It Best For?
  • People who already journal or are prone to list making and writing things down
  • Those whose minds tend to wander during meditation or thinking exercises

There is not one specific way that you need to structure your gratitude journal. While some people like to write freely without any rules or constraints, others might prefer to complete a list each week of three, ten or even a page worth of things to be grateful for. Here are some of the most common methods of journaling:

  • Traditional Journal/Diary –  Details positive events and moments you experience throughout the day. This practice can not only help you appreciate these moments but will also give you a record of them to refer back to years later. This is best done at the end of the day.
  • List Journal – Simply lists things that you are grateful for in any given moment. Many people start their day with this practice, though it can be done at any time.
  • Reflection Journal – Includes a series of questions to help you explore and draw gratitude from a moment. You might ask yourself what in your day brought you the most joy, what you learned that day or who you are feeling most grateful for. There are reflection journals available with questions already in them or you can create your own. This practice is best when done later in the day.

As an exercise, take a week to try each of these methods to see if one works best for you. You might find that one is difficult on the first day as you get into the right mindset, but might become easier and more therapeutic over time. With other methods you might find that they don’t hit the right cord and you stall out mid-week. It is important to find what works best for your mind and schedule, as each of us are a little different.

Jay Shetty is a great advocate for gratitude journaling. Here are some tips for him on how to get the most out of the practice:

Start: 642, End: 741

While it can be great to add a daily or weekly gratitude practice into your routine, these are not the only ways to show gratitude and experience its benefits. Here are some other ways that you can add gratitude into your daily life:

Thank You Letter

One of the best ways to increase your happiness and contentment with life is by spreading joy, kindness and good will to others. A great way of doing this while practicing gratitude is by simply saying thank you for an action, intention or relationship that you have appreciated in your life.

Take a moment to take out a piece of paper and pen. Choose a person in your life that you are thankful for. How have they positively impacted your life? Try to be as honest and unfiltered as possible in expressing your gratitude.

When you are finished, it is up to you to decide if you would like to give that person your letter. Either way, you will likely find that writing it has not only increased your appreciation for them, but also boosted your overall happiness. A study detailed in American Psychologist in 2005 found that those that mailed their thank you letters increased their level of happiness for up to two months after delivery.

Thank you letters have become less of a regular practice since our lives have moved to email and this gives the simple act of writing a letter, adding a stamp and sending it off in the mail extra special. Everyone loves getting something unexpected and it is even greater when it is something personal and truly from the heart.

Gratitude Jar

If you’re not someone who can commit to a regular gratitude journaling routine, a gratitude jar can be a great way of writing down your moments of gratitude when the inspiration strikes you.

Add each down on a strip of paper and add it to a jar. You will likely find that not only does the act of writing it down increase your immediate happiness but you will also gain hopefulness and optimism as you start to see the jar fill with all of the things that you have to be grateful for.

Feeling sad? Take a few minutes to look through your entries. You are likely to discover many of them still bring a smile to your face and might help to turn a bad mood around quickly.

Gratitude Box for Each Member of Your Household

Healthy and strong relationships are built through understanding and appreciation. Similar to a gratitude jar, gratitude boxes simply ask that you write down your moments of gratitude when they strike you. But, with this practice, you focus on things that make you grateful for those you live with and add those moments to each member of your household’s boxes.

This practice allows them to back a selection of gratitude messages they can come back to when in need of a pick-me-up. This is a great practice to do as a whole household and you can choose if you are each going to sign your messages or keep them anonymous.

Gratitude Walk

This is another choice for those that like the idea of taking up gratitude meditation but find they have a difficult time focusing on just their present thoughts and breath. 

A gratitude walk is best done in a space where you can marvel at the sights and sounds around you and leave behind stresses of your day or thoughts beyond what you are experiencing in that moment. Gratitude walks are commonly about connecting to nature and your surroundings and showing gratitude for present moments on your walk. This can help you feel more grounded and calm as you move back into your daily life.

Finding the gratitude practice that is right for you can be an exciting and uplifting journey. It takes openness and a willingness to explore to fully feel its effects. If you find that one practice is not working for you, think about why that might be and then move onto the next. In the end, you might find something that enriches your life and spirit on a daily basis.

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One of the core concepts the Gratitude Workshop tries to teach is that a gratitude practice is meant to be undertaken without judgement.  Read more >

What is a gratitude practice? Why is thinking of people worse off than you or worse situations than you are in not an effective gratitude practice tactic?  Take the quiz  >

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