It can sometimes be very easy to focus on the negative things in life. The things that annoy, frustrate and irritate. The things that aren’t going quite so well and the areas of our life we wish we could improve. Looking at everything from this perspective can make us feel incredibly frustrated with the life we’re leading. We begin to question everything we do and it can make us feel like what we have and what we do isn’t quite good enough. The lives of those around us can seem so much more exciting than our own and we find ourselves hankering for something seemingly better. But is life really as bad as it seems? Often it’s actually the way we’re viewing the world that’s really the problem. So how do we turn things around and look at life with a more positive mindset? By practicing gratitude.
When we look at things from a more positive perspective we realise life isn’t as bad as we thought. We realise we have a lot to be thankful for and that we’re far richer than we first perceived. But focusing on what’s good about our lives rather than what’s bad can be hard. Practicing gratitude can help. When we practice gratitude we acknowledge what is going well and we give appreciation to all the things we’re fortunate enough to have. It can be incredibly beneficial to our health and wellbeing too. But what exactly is practicing gratitude and how do we do it?
The art of practicing gratitude…
The idea is to take the time at some point during your day to sit and think about everything you’re grateful for. That you write a few things down and then reflect upon what you’ve written. The exercise is supposed to generate feelings of appreciation and gratefulness. It’s supposed to raise your level of happiness and help create a better sense of self-worth. But there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Exactly how and when you practice gratitude is entirely up to you. What’s important is you find a way that works for you so that you want to practice it on a regular basis.
So when should you do it?
- Are you an early riser? If so, try making the most of the quiet time before everyone else is up. Make yourself a cup of coffee or your favourite herbal tea. Find a cosy place to sit and use the time to yourself to ponder and reflect.
- If you work during the day try using your lunch break as your time to practice. Take yourself off somewhere quiet. Relax your mind and write down your thankful thoughts as they come.
- Next time you find yourself sitting in traffic use the time wisely. Think of three things you’re grateful for and say them out loud to yourself. Don’t worry that you can’t write them down, saying something out loud can be as powerful as putting pen to paper.
- Do you like to journal at the end of your day? Make practicing gratitude part of the routine and use it as a means of reflecting upon your day.
How should you do it?
- Get yourself a nice notebook and try writing 3-5 things in it every single day that you’re grateful for. If you find practicing daily isn’t for you, try every other day or once a week instead.
- If you prefer diaries to notebooks, try a week-to-view dairy and write in one thing you’re thankful for each day.
- More of a visual person? Take a photo of whatever it is your grateful for that day and record it in a photo journal app.
- If you prefer screen to pen, try downloading a gratitude app. There are plenty to choose from and some even let you upload photos as well as text.
- Think about what part of your day has made you smile. Ask yourself what went right and what you’re thankful for. If you’re finding it hard to get started, try reviewing each area of your life one by one (home, family, money, work, friendships etc). Write down whatever comes to mind.
- If you still find you’re struggling try turning things on their head and ask yourself how you’d feel if you didn’t have the things you have.
- Don’t feel you just have to write a list. If it helps to write down why you’re grateful, do that too. Writing down the ‘why’ can really help you to feel the gratitude and truly appreciate what you’re thankful for.
- Get the whole family involved. Make gratitude part of the discussion at the dinner table. Make it part of the bedtime snuggles routine and ask your kids what they liked about their day. Not only will this teach them to appreciate the things that really matter, you’ll get to know them better too.
The benefits of practicing gratitude
Feeling happier and healthier and sleeping better are just three of the benefits reported by those who regularly practice the art of gratitude. I’ve been practicing it now for just over a year and I’ve noticed a huge difference in the way I view my life. Here are just some of the benefits I’ve discovered:
- I’m easier pleased than before. I’ve really learnt how to appreciate the little things in life. Hearing the birds sing, being outdoors, the sun shining, a traffic light staying green…all of these things make me smile!
- I’m naturally more positive. My mindset has shifted and I now find it so much easier to see things from a more positive perspective.
- I’m less stressed! Practicing gratitude has really helped me to lower my stress levels. Rather than getting worked up about things I can’t control, I now find myself trying to take something positive from the experience.
- I’ve learnt that I really don’t need a lot to be happy. I no longer have a desire to want the latest gadget and I no longer care whether I’m keeping up with the Joneses.
- I’ve learned to slow down. Learning to appreciate the little things has taught me to slow down, to enjoy the moment more and to be more present with those I love.
- I have the strength to keep going when things are tough. I realised this benefit most last year whilst undergoing chemotherapy. Practicing gratitude helped me to stay focused, it reminded me of what was good about my life and it gave me the strength to fight.
- I have improved relationships with those around me. Through practicing gratitude I now know myself better and what I love most about the relationships I have with my nearest and dearest.
Take the time to review what you’ve written
Taking the time to review your journal on a regular basis is a really important step in the art of practicing gratitude. Try to aim for once a week if you can but once a month will work too. Find a quiet moment when you can give your journal your full attention. Re-read your entries, highlight your favourite moments and those that surprised you the most. Really take the time to enjoy reflecting upon what you’ve written. Doing this reaffirms what you’re thankful for and you’ll feel the gratitude and appreciation all over again. It helps you to realise and accept that what you already have around you is enough. That anything else is a bonus.
Review your entries regularly and over time you’ll begin to notice patterns of what brings you the most gratitude. You’ll start to see trends and it’ll help you work out what areas of your life you’re relatively happy with and which areas you need to give more attention to. You’ll start to notice the little things more and you’ll become more present with those around you. Over time you’ll find that you no longer place such a high value on ‘stuff’. You’ll realise you don’t need quite so much to make you happy. You’ll also come to really enjoy the time you sit down to practice gratitude and look forward to it.
The benefits of practicing gratitude and how to do it…
Practicing gratitude really is a powerful exercise. By recording your entries you’re creating a lasting record of everything that is good in your life. Pick up your journal whenever times are tough and your entries will give you the strength to keep going. They’ll also serve as a gentle reminder of everything you have to be thankful for when you need it most. Practice regularly and not only will you start to see things from a more positive light, your level of happiness will increase too. If you’re not practicing gratitude already, why not give it a go and see the difference it makes to your life.
That’s it for this post! I hope it has inspired you to give practicing gratitude a try. If you like what you’ve read be sure to subscribe so you never miss a post! Join my tribe and kick-start creating a family life you love right now by filling in your details below. Receive my FREE Gratitude Journal as a thank-you!