What’s all the hype about gratitude? Of course you are grateful! You say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ at the appropriate moments. You offer a ‘pardon me’ as you walk past people. You are ‘sorry’ if you cause a disturbance. Politeness comes second nature to you, right?
However, sometimes these words roll off our tongues so easily it’s as if we are on auto-pilot when we engage people. The result is that we say the words, even when we may not truly mean them. That’s not to say we are horrible people – in fact, very often our feelings and thoughts may be close, but they may not be intentional. What I am encouraging is to become more consciously aware and authentic with our gratitude.
You may recall some practices from your childhood (and you may even continue these today): saying grace over your meals and your prayers at bedtime. These acts were intentional in that you took the specific time to do them regularly. Only, if you were like me, even these became rote after a while: saying grace became like reciting a poem, and my prayers became a game to stall going to bed. Sound familiar?
Instead, I’m proposing deeply connecting with your gratitude – not only the words but the feelings. Getting in touch with gratitude may bubble forward easily for you, or it may be a struggle to tap into your truly thankful feelings. Wherever you are at, exercising your gratitude muscle becomes more top of mind and smoother the more you use it. A gratitude practice does just that: it familiarizes, stretches and tones your ability to feel thankful more often and more gracefully.
Moving beyond your ‘pleases’ and ‘thank yous,’ I’m challenging you to intentionally design a gratitude practice specific to you. Let’s walk through the 5Ws….
Who are you? Please know that in order for a gratitude practice to be an effective tool for you, it has to fit you…and only you. There is not one single arbitrary method. Try out different tools, styles, ideas, etc. and then tweak them to suit you. Often empowering yourself with options prods you to consider your uniqueness and value who you are. The question is what works uniquely for YOU?
What are you grateful for? Starting with observing the things that make your heart sing, be the witness of your life for a few days. Simply take note of the people, items, events, situations, places, etc. that spark a genuine feeling of thankfulness. Get familiar with your gratitude world!
What do you do? (Yes, there is a second ‘what’!) Much like grace or prayers, you may a specific saying to recite each time, or you may more casually ‘wing-it.’ You may say them aloud, think them silently to yourself, or even sing them. All techniques are powerful…meaning if one works for, you’ll do it, and so you empower it. My personal process is to silently feel whatever spontaneously comes to mind, allowing a free-flow of gratitude in each moment. But this may freak out your sense of ‘what if I miss something?’ Curious what style suits you? Try them both…or combine them by starting with a set saying and then going free-style!
Where do you practice? Much like choosing where to exercise, you may prefer a specific location (like a gym), or being more spontaneous and changing it up each day. If it suits you, it may help to practice gratitude in a place that feels more sacred to you, like in your garden, in a park, etc. You may even set up (or already have) a special place in your home, like a special reading chair, a meditation space, or a view you love. Otherwise, you may follow your heart and flexibility change up locations as the moment inspires you. Where is special to you?
When do you practice? The ‘when’ may be impacted by the ‘where,’ but the biggest factor to ‘when’ isn’t the actual time of day or length of time, but to simply DO IT! You may decide to try a set time each day, or you may go with the flow of when gratitude strikes you, or you may choose to wait until quiet moments in the day. For many people, it can be challenging to find time during hectic days, so get creative: in the car, in the shower, on the treadmill, while washing dishes, when you brush your teeth, etc. All work beautifully – simply try them each to see what timing motivates you to practice and when you can fit it in. Five minutes is a great starting point – see where you go from there.
Why do it? If it’s not obvious, the point of a gratitude practice is to feel more genuinely and deeply grateful, and to more easily and authentically express your gratitude. You may think it’s a snap, but to intentionally feel, think, and speak more gratitude can be life changing. Imagine how it could enhance your relationships, ease your work environment, support you with parenting, etc. You may even find it improves your health, and welcomes more abundance. Following the law of attraction, what you put out is what you receive. How could your gratitude practice bring more joy into your world?
I encourage you to try several different techniques. Combine them in a way that works for you, and please consistently PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE! Doing a gratitude practice once and stopping, expecting it to be ‘all you can do’ is like going to the gym once and expecting a 6-pack of abs. To exercise your gratitude muscle takes practice – hence the name! But this one involves no additional sweat, no aching crunches, and a heart filled with appreciation. This is the practice that will give you a 6-pack of love!
Love to hear how you create your gratitude practice and how it adds a vibe of happiness, grace and joy to your life. Please add your comments below to share your tips with others. A genuine ‘Thank You’ from me!