Three quick questions for you:
How do you feel when you’re thinking about the things that are going well in your life?
How do you feel when you think about the things in your life that you love?
Do you like feeling that way?
I do. And I’m not alone. When we’re thinking about what’s going well in our life and what we love, we are cultivating gratitude. Study after study shows that the more grateful we feel, the better off we’ll be in all aspects of our lives. People who regularly reflect on what they have to be grateful for are generally more positive, open-minded, and happy people. Grateful people are also healthier. They sleep better, have stronger immune systems, have lower blood pressure, and better manage their stress.
Sounds pretty good, right? So how do we add more gratitude to our lives to get some of these benefits?
Like anything else, start small and keep it simple. Here are four ways I deliberately and consciously add gratitude to my and my family’s life:
1) GTP: When we sit down to eat together, we tell each other our GTPs: What we’re Grateful, Thankful, and Proud of ourselves for. There are a couple of ground rules: (1) We don’t interrupt anyone when they’re telling their GTPs (ex. a brother can’t tell another brother that he ‘shouldn’t’ feel proud for X, Y, or Z. (2) we do this before we get up from the table. Sometimes other’s GTPs might spark a conversation and so we will be all done eating before everyone shared their GTPs but we still sit and share. (3) Their GTPs need to be unique. Even if we’re all grateful for the delicious food, only one of us can say that. This encourages reluctant share-ers to go first and, if our GTP was just taken, it allows our brain to look for other things to be grateful for. (4) Flexibility: Like any household habit or tradition, as a mom I need to be flexible. If a child asks for us to not do them at a certain meal (usually because a friend is there for dinner), I honor that. When you’re doing something routinely, missing a day will not bring you back to square zero.
2) Bookend Gratitude: The more you get in the habit of deliberately pausing for gratitude, the more your brain will search for (and find) things that are going well in your life. I start and finish my day with gratitude. Before I get out of bed I think of at least 3 things I’m happy about (about that day or about life in general) and when I lay down to sleep at night I think of 3 things I’m grateful for. Here are several ways you can bring these bookends into your life. Choose one and try it for a week:
Have a friend that you text your 3 things to each morning or night.
Before sleep, turn to your partner and share your 3 things aloud.
Keep a notebook by your bed and write them down (super fun to look back at)
Get this fun app and record them.
3) Gratitude Bing: Set an alarm on your phone that says: “What are you grateful for?” and, when it goes off stop to think of 3 things you’re grateful for. My alarm is set for 2:10 PM and I invite you to join me. Truly, it takes 30 seconds (or less) but has profound benefits. When we direct our brain to look for what we can be grateful for, our brain can’t look for what there is to not be grateful for.When we direct our brain to look for what we can be grateful for, our brain can’t look for what there is to not be grateful for. Click To Tweet
4) Get Out There Gratitude: In order to be grateful we must have perspective. What do I mean by perspective? Think of how you feel extra grateful for your heated house in the days after your broken furnace has been fixed. Or, think of how you are super appreciative of your healthy teeth after you’ve had the experience of a tooth ache. This is called “Get Out There Gratitude” because sometimes everyone around us looks like their lives are rosy perfect (Facebook newsfeed anyone?!). Don’t be fooled. Everyone is struggling with something. I’ve found that the fancier or happier their posts appear the worse their reality actually is. However, because the people around you look pretty darn good, get out of your normal area and head to a different area of town. Choose to visit your local homeless shelter or food kitchen. I live in a very affluent area of the US yet have personally seen the struggle of my homeless, abused, or hungry neighbors. Travel is another great way to gain perspective and thus, increase your gratitude. Not only is your bed super comfortable when you return, you see things when traveling that are not like you are accustomed to at home. If nothing else, turn on a documentary and watch people who don’t have running water. You’ll appreciate your water faucet a bit more the next day.
Please let me know if you try any of these four tips or if you have your own ways of practicing gratitude. The more we manage our mind to see things in positive way and stay away form negative unproductive thinking, the more good we bring to this world. It’s not about ignoring things that are going wrong. It’s about moving through those things while keeping perspective of our inner selves and abilities. Share your joys with me. If you aren’t a newsletter subscriber, what are you waiting for? I had a great podcast recommendation for this week and a wonderful offer for my peeps. Get on the list so you have one more thing to be grateful for!
I’m grateful for you!!!