Practicing Gratitude

19 Oct

Science shows us that grateful people are happy people.

This seems obvious, but let me reframe it. How often do we look inside of ourselves for happiness? How often to we believe that all we need for a happy life lies within us? If you are like me, your answers to these questions are probably “rarely” or “never”. We tend to put all the focus on our problems. Our problems consume our thoughts, our conversations, and alter our perspective on life. The “good” things- as big as a career you love and as small as a sunny afternoon- go unrecognized, undiscussed, and unappreciated.

Much of how we experience life is based on our perspective. Research estimates that our chosen perspective on life comprises 40% of our happiness. Perspective is a choice- something we have complete control over. If you can shift your perspective, you can control your experience. If you can control your experience, you can have happiness.

The best method I have found to remind myself to maintain a positive perspective and therefore cultivate happiness in my life is through a gratitude practice. A friend gifted me a gratitude journal several months ago. In the introduction, this journal gives a few valuable pieces of advice:

1) When things are at the very worst, it is the most critical time to cherish moments of joy. For example, if someone you love dies, there will be pain and grief. Allow yourself to feel it. But also allow yourself to feel and appreciate the glimmer of happiness that comes from telling stories about this person or a moment of unrelated laughter with a friend in the midst of your grieving period.

2) Always look for the “why” behind your gratitude. This will help identify and reinforce habits that cultivate happiness. For example, I am grateful for my yoga practice. Why? Because I am making time to care for myself and my wellbeing even on the craziest days. We relentlessly analyze the negative, so why not analyze the positive too?

We have started a habit in our house that we call “5 Things”. Each day JWD and I take turns listing 5 things we are grateful for. They can be anything from a delicious apple we ate at lunch to a meaningful moment with a friend. On some days 5 will feel hard- not because you lack 5 things to be grateful for, but because your perspective is blocking your view. Some days, 5 won’t seem like enough.

Today as we were walking in our neighborhood, JWD said “Ok babe, 5 things. Go.” Here is what I said:

1. I’m grateful for the warm cup of coffee I enjoyed as I started writing this post this morning. JWD brewed it and my gratitude stems from feelings of being cared for and feeling safe and relaxed in our home.

2. I am grateful for the dear, special friends we shared breakfast with yesterday. They are the kind of people who offer thoughtful conversation, genuine laughs, and the inspiration to better yourself. We’ve built a bond that feels more like family than friendship.

3. I am grateful for my health. Staying healthy is hard in our sedentary, stressed out, “SAD” (Standard American Diet) culture. I am grateful for workouts and sound sleep and nourishing food and that I have the means to make these things priorities.

4. I am grateful for fuzzy socks and hot tea that keeps me cozy on cold fall nights.

5. I am grateful for this smoothie. It’s the result of a very fun writing assignment that I will share soon.

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Today is a day when 5 is too few.

Thanks for reading!

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