In 5 or 6 weeks, gratitude posts are going to begin popping up all over the place. In fact, it was a 30-day challenge that I gave myself nearly 3 years ago that began my path to grateful living. I wanted to make a change in me, and as an ever-so-slightly competitive person, I respond well to challenges, even those that are self-imposed. I figured the month of Thanksgiving (Thanks Giving) was a good time to begin, so I simultaneously challenged myself to post gratitude for 30 days AND get on the elliptical machine every day, too. I was ready to finally shed the weight that I carried from having 3 kids and a French (now-ex) husband who could cook like a god. I succeeded in my challenge, and so I did it again a year later and basically, I never stopped. Aside from dropping off for a night or two, or even a few weeks here and there, I've been consistently practicing and posting gratitude for nearly 2 years and you know what? It feels darn good.
In my amateur research on the topic, I discovered many unexpected benefits of gratitude and that there were specific ways of practicing gratitude that created the most impact.
1. Write it down. Writing down your gratitude allows you to experience whatever you're grateful for all over again! It's like bathing your cells in goodness!
2. Be Specific. This is the opposite of generalizing by writing, "I am so grateful for my family." Yes, and? WHAT, specifically, are you grateful about in regards to your family? An example of specificity would be like this: "I am so grateful for my family because we recognize that our bond as family is more important than our political leanings. Today, my brother and I had a deeply respectful and loving conversation about our different viewpoints, which led us to discovering our similarities." Like so. #truestory
3. List 5 Things. Sometimes my lists easily edge closer to 7 or 8 things, and sometimes coming up with 5 is a challenge. But that's the point! We are working to build a muscle, change our neurology, teach ourselves to actively look for what we can be grateful for throughout our day. Looking for moments in your day that were loving, funny, kind, and meaningful becomes a habit after a few weeks (disclaimer: habits take closer to 60 days to form; not the 21 days as previously espoused). We are actively re-wiring our brains when we practice gratitude. After a while, I began to notice that in moments of irritation I would start to wonder what, about the situation, would I be grateful for later. That was an exceptionally powerful habit to foster as I experienced divorce, I tell you, but that's a story for another time.
4. Change it up. Be sure to find different things to be grateful for each day. Don't just say your kids every day. Getting specific helps in that, but writing about the same thing every night loses its charge. It's important to look at all areas of your day and your life.
5. Practice first thing in the morning or the last thing at night (or both!). Many gratitude enthusiasts suggest beginning your day with gratitude. I can see how that would be powerful, and occasionally, I do, however, I'm usually in a rush in the morning. I made it my practice to write my gratitude posts just before bed. Sometimes even in bed. For me, this ensures that no matter how challenging of a day I might have had, or how grumpy I might feel after trying to get 3 kids to (stay in!) bed, I end my day feeling loving and peaceful. I end up being incredibly grateful for gratitude.
A practice of gratitude will change your life. It will. It will change your neurology, it will change your outlook, it will improve your physical and emotional health, and it will very likely improve your relationship with yourSelf and others.
I invite you to begin a practice of gratitude online or in a journal (handwriting has even more benefits, but my fingers can keep up with my thoughts faster on a keyboard than with a pen). I'll be posting nightly, as always, within my Facebook Create A Life You Love Group. If you're local to Metro Detroit, you're welcome to join us. If not, create your own gratitude challenge among your friends. Accountability is a powerful motivator. You can even post your gratitude in the comments below - I'd LOVE 30-days of gratitude comments!! I'd be so grateful.