I start my mornings with a multi-vitamin and a cup (or two) of strong coffee. I’ve conditioned myself into thinking that taking these items in will jump start my day and provide a long-term health benefit. But what if I began my mornings with a simple display of gratitude? Would I feel revived? Could there be a long-term benefit for this action? What would happen if I missed a day?
So many things to be thankful for; so little time to show it. Some days it sure feels like this is the way life goes. When asked if we are thankful for our lives, most people would quickly answer “yes”. Yet we all know that showing gratitude is rewarding but we hit a standstill at ways to demonstrate it. It’s easy to say “I’m grateful” but are you just saying words or are you living it?
As a single mother for 13 years prior to getting married, I was always grateful for the little things in life because living was sometimes a struggle. I learned to appreciate kind gestures and simply “getting by.” I would be thankful if I could pay rent and keep groceries in the fridge. I would be thankful if my car broke down and I had the money right away to repair it.
It wasn’t until I was diagnosed in 2007 with advanced stage breast cancer at the age of 35 that I truly adopted gratitude as a daily ritual. When you are faced with your own immortality, you seek pleasure and happiness in things that you once may have taken for granted. I stopped the relentless pursuit of material acquisitions because I was sincerely grateful for what I had.
Increasing your daily intake of gratitude
As we enter a new year, we are receptive to new ideas, new adventures, new memories and with that may come with a heightened sense of gratitude. You reflect back on all the things you have overcome and survived. So, if you are looking to becoming more grateful about your life, where can you start?
Start a gratitude journal.
I used to be skeptical about writing things down in a journal despite increasing evidence that supports journaling has positive well-being benefits. I didn’t think that I could commit daily time to writing in a journal and I didn’t think there was truly a wellness connection. I worried that someone else would find it and read it and my deepest thoughts would be exposed.
Journaling doesn’t have to be fancy. Set aside a few uninterrupted moments daily or weekly to write. While purchasing a nice well bounded book is a nice indulgence, you can simply jot down in a spiral notebook at least three things a day that you are grateful for. You don’t have to come up with three different things everyday but commit to expressing three things. For example, my three things that I would be grateful for today are having a job, feeling well (I have been sick all week), and having a comfortable home to return to.
You see, there was a time that I didn’t celebrate my job, I didn’t have a place of my own to call home and there were periods of extended illness. When we learn to show gratitude for things that may seem like a given, we can look back and evaluate our growth.
At the end of the year, flip back through your journal or when you are having a bad day or feeling depressed. Revisiting things that bring you joy or that draw gratitude will quickly change your perspective. Ex. You may be driving home in the rain and see a person walking on the sidewalk without an umbrella. You could simply state that you are thankful you are covered from the rain. That person walking in the rain might see a person in a wheelchair and be thankful that they can walk. The person in the wheelchair may be thankful for their family support. It’s all in proper perspective.
Positive Social Media Posts.
So much of our time revolves on our phones and social media. Let’s face it. Some of our connections on social media can be Debbie Downers. All they do is complain or post content that is negative, depressing or disturbing. What you put out is what you attract. Use your social media influence to encourage others to show gratitude. Post about things in your life that you are grateful for and watch others around you follow suit. Positivity is contagious so start spreading it today!
Find a book that celebrates gratitude.
I participated in a women’s book club and was introduced to author Ann Voskamp. Her best-selling book “One Thousand Gifts: A Dare to Live Fully Right Where You Are” really forced me to start finding joy amongst the stresses and setbacks of life. Voskamp effectively introduces the readers to the concept of “eucharisteo”; the daily pursuit of recognizing blessings.
Other recommended readings include “The Gratitude Diaries: How a Year Looking on the Bright Side Can Transform Your Life” by Janis Kaplan, “Gratitude Works!: A 21-Day Program for Creating Emotional Prosperity” by Robert Emmons and “The Gratitude Habit: A 365 Day Journal and Workbook: A tool for creating positive feelings in your daily life” by Wendy Meg Siegel. Head on over to your favorite bookstore or online seller and search for books on gratitude to help navigate you on your new journey.
Spend quality time with the people you are thankful for.
There is no greater way to let people know how much they mean to you other than taking the time to actually spend time with them. Quality time which means no cell phones and undivided attention. Sometimes you have to get reacquainted with the people in your life as their goals, wants and needs change. Spending time with our loved ones reminds us of the importance they play in our lives and it makes them feel pretty special too.
There’s a saying that goes “a moment of gratitude makes a difference in your attitude.” It’s true. By being thankful for aspects of our lives, we begin to appreciate things more. When you appreciate things, the Universe tends to listen and respond and will continue to extend things to you to be grateful for.
As we prepare to embrace a new calendar year, increase your daily intake of gratitude. You’ll find there’s always room in your life for it.