4 Practical Paths to Practice Gratitude
Gratitude is the new kale.
Not really, but it is touted as being very beneficial for a happy life and for good reason. One of the ways that societal and economical pistons keep pumping is thru the constant streaming messages that devalue us, and convince us that we are not worthy and not good enough. They take it one step further but lying to us and telling us that the ONLY way to get better, be worthy, or become enough is thru the obtaining things, and the attaining of status. This leads us into a constant comparison mode: ourselves against everyone else. A test we often find we fail.
Gratitude is the antidote to this problem. Gratitude smooths out the rough edges of the challenges that life provides. Gratitude provides positivity as it changes your perspective on a situation. And the best part is that it’s fairly easy to do, and you can do it ANYTIME you want. And it’s cheaper than drunk shopping Amazon. (Sidenote: Did you know that “drunk shopping” is a $48 billion dollar industry? And That Hustle found that when Americans get drunk they go to Amazon 85% of the time to buy stuff online?) Gratitude is free, enjoyable, and effective.
If you find yourself in the proverbial pickle, overwhelmed or just plain “in a funk”, a little gratitude can get your attitude on the right track.
So here are 4 ways you can practice gratitude each day.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Okay, okay. I know if I say gratitude journal one more time…. But here’s the thing, important things happen in your brain when you write the things you are grateful for down. And by putting those things you’re grateful for all in a single place, you can reference them whenever you need to.
- If you struggle to make a list, start with the small things. A new pair of socks. A good cup of coffee. The smell of freshly cut grass. The feel of the breeze on sun-warmed skin. You get the idea?
- If you STILL struggle, consider going for a gratitude walk. Walk in gratitude. Get out of your head and back into your body. Go for a walk and actively seek out beautiful or pleasing things to be grateful for. In your neighborhood you may find a gorgeous flowerbed, and be grateful for the gardener that keeps it. You may see a large, old tree and reflect on how long it has been there and what “world events” it has been present to. Reflecting can also help you change your perspective.
- Make a list of things that you like about yourself. What are you impressed by when you take a long, hard (honest) look at yourself? You’ll not only be expressing gratitude, but you’ll also be doing wonders for your self-esteem.
Avoid comparisonitis (like the plague.)
This one takes practice, but when you realize that comparing yourself to others is like comparing apples and oranges (or a tree with a loaf of bread) you realize how unfair it is. When you compare things (including yourself) you insult and demean those things. Besides, you never know the path that someone has walked to get to where they are. Neither the blessings nor the hardships. And no one else in the world is exactly like you, so how can it be reasonable to compare yourself to them. The only reasonable comparison you should ever make is the current version of you with the older, and previous version of you. How are you getting better and better each day?
How do we stop comparing ourselves to others? Do the best that you can to minimize judgements and complaining. Judging yourself or others is the opposite of gratitude. Whenever you find yourself having a judgmental thought about yourself or someone else, see if you can put yourself in their shoes and see if how they came to that place or decision is understandable. It’s easy to judge someone for making a decision when you’re not in their place, privy to all the info they have. But if you try to see it thru their eyes you might find yourself understanding WHY they made the choices they did – even if they ended up to not be the best ones.
Being thankful is not exactly the same as being grateful. I think of gratefulness and gratitude as an internal process. Thankfulness is more of an outward process. So tell and show people in your life that you are thankful for them and their service. Tell your barista, thank you. Tell your mail delivery person thank you for showing up rain or shine. Tell the Universe or Your Higher Power thank you for your meal. Tell the people who share your food with you, thank you. Tell your customers thank you (even for their complaints.) You can also write someone a thank you note, or even a recommendation letter if you feel so inclined. Writing a positive review for a business you feel deserves it will make them feel good, but will also boost your mood by being supportive and being helpful.
Spend time with someone or something you love.
Sometimes when we are with others we are so distracted by our thoughts, our phones, the TV, etc. That person (or thing, like a pet) could almost not be there at all and we wouldn’t even notice. The thing about life is that nothing is permanent. And what is here for you today may not be here for you tomorrow. Remind yourself that life is short, and be present (and grateful) for the precious moments that you spend with a loved one. You never know how many of those you will get.
Consider donating time (or money) to a worthy cause. Giving your resources to something (it could be a charity or an organization) that you think is valuable to the world can be a great way to show gratitude.
Be grateful for everything you have. Even if you’re struggling to make ends meet below the poverty level, you’re still living better than the vast majority of the world’s population. Being grateful doesn’t mean you have to like your situation or be satisfied with it and not want it to change – it’s more of an acknowledgement that it could ALWAYS be worse, and being grateful it isn’t. =)
When you practice gratitude your mood will be lifted and perspective will be shifted. Your opportunities for success will increase. And you’ll receive even more good things to be grateful for!