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This is my guide to starting a gratitude practice. I practice gratitude every single day, not just on special occasions like Thanksgiving!
My gratitude story
I used to be a self-entitled and ungrateful person. I took everything for granted and thought that life should be handed to me in a golden plate.
However, my life kind of fell to pieces a few years ago. Since then, I have been practicing gratitude on a daily basis and I have never been happier.
What is gratitude?
Gratitude is the act of showing thankfulness and being appreciative of things (good and bad) that have come your way.
Why should you practice gratitude?
Practising gratitude makes you happier. There are tons of studies on this. Gratitude gives people stronger positive emotions which transfer to other aspects in their lives like health, relationships, etc.
How do you practice gratitude?
Here are some of my tips on how you can start practising gratitude and showing more gratitude in your daily life:
1. Meditate / practice mindfulness
I have been meditating for a few years. I first started by completing a MBSR (mindfulness-based stress reduction) program. You can try it at Palouse Mindfulness, it’s completely free.
After practising mindfulness, I am able to better observe my feelings and emotions as they happen. I can feel exactly when I start feeling stressed, unhappy, content, etc.
This heightened awareness of my own thoughts and feelings is exactly what helped me to start appreciating the people and things around me. And that is also what allowed me to actually find things to be thankful for and then start showing gratitude!
2. Start a gratitude journal
This is a super fun exercise but it’s very hard to do at the beginning.
Basically, everyday, write down 3 things that you are grateful for. Do this every single day for at least 3 weeks. The catch is, you cannot repeat anything that you’ve written previously.
For example, today I am grateful for:
- having a roof over my head
- living in Switzerland
- eating Swiss chocolate
Tomorrow, I have to think of 3 completely new things that I’m grateful for.
I have been keeping a gratitude journal for 4 years!!! And I haven’t once repeated myself.
The reason why I suggest to do this for 3 weeks is because that’s the minimum amount of time it takes for something to become a habit. After doing this for 3 weeks straight, you will rewire your brain to actively look for things to be grateful for.
I noticed the switch between my brain just being on autopilot to my brain actively searching for things to be grateful for and it was remarkable.
It was a chilly day in the fall and all the leaves had already turned colours and were falling down. I was late for work but I stopped to look at the trees and I thought to myself, “Wow, I’m so lucky to be here and witness these beautiful colours on these trees.”
That’s when I KNEW that this practice of gratitude journalling was working and I’ve been a much happier person ever since.
My recommendation is to use a Moleskine journal. It’s my favourite journal to write in – it’s simple and easy to carry around. I’ve gone through at least 5 of these already!
Volunteering is a great way to give back to the community. When you see the impact that you make in the lives of others, you will feel positive emotions which will boost your confidence and happiness.
I love volunteer and it takes up a big part of my free time. And whenever I see someone express their gratitude to me (either through a smile or ‘thank you’) I get a little weepy. I’m not going to lie! And it leaves me feeling amazing!
4. Practise saying thank you
I find it’s extremely difficult to say thank you, especially to close friends and family.
We’ve gotten so accustomed to having these people in our lives that we don’t take time to appreciate them anymore.
When I was living with my parents, all I could do was focus on the negative parts about living with them – the lack of freedom, the overprotectiveness, etc. However, now that I live far away from them, I really do appreciate everything they’ve done for me. I regret not appreciating them more when I had the chance.
I’ve made it a habit to say “thank you” a lot more often than I would normally. If someone does even a simple favour for me, I will say “thank you.” Sometimes people get taken by surprise and they actually do react quite positively when I say “thank you” out of the blue!
5. Write a thank you letter
This is a fun little exercise I’ve done a few times. Sit down and actually write a “thank you” letter to someone you love and care about – for no reason!
I wrote a “thank you” letter to both my sister and her husband and they loved it so much. I could tell that they were overcome with emotions after reading the letter. It’s still hanging up on their fridge!
And trust me, it was a difficult process. I had to spend days thinking about what to write. It felt really awkward expressing gratitude for little things, especially over text.
But seriously, trust me on this one. Try writing a thank you letter, and better yet, read it out loud to your loved one!
6. Do a random act of kindness
Do something nice for someone just for the sake of being nice. For example, offer to pay for the coffee of the person in line behind you. Or leave inspirational notes in the public bathroom! Whatever you can think of to brighten up someone’s day!
Here’s a list of 103 random acts of kindness to try!
7. Donate to a charity
I hate hoarding. Instead, I love giving things away. I love donating my time and money to charity.
Did you know that being generous makes you happier? The “feel-good” effect of giving something away actually reduces stress and is even linked to higher life expectancy!
8. Say sorry / forgive and forget
Last but not least, one must forgive and forget. I used to hold onto grudges and carry a lot of negative emotions inside.
Finally, I learned how to let go and it’s allowed me to feel more positive and grateful in life.
I actually spent a lot of time reaching out to old “enemies” and just saying I’m sorry for our misunderstandings in the past and asking if we can just let go of the past. I didn’t get responses from everyone I reached out to, but just the gesture alone left me feeling great!
Who knows, you may even be able to rekindle a relationship and even become best friends with your worst enemy!
I have been keeping a gratitude journal for over 4 years. I love practising gratitude and this post offered suggestions on how you can get started with practising gratitude!
Remember, slow and steady wins the race! Start with just a few minutes a day and soon you will be doing this on autopilot!
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