It’s no surprise that as we get closer to Thanksgiving, we turn our thoughts to giving thanks and expressing gratitude. Even though we know we should be grateful all year long, it usually takes Thanksgiving and the reminder on Facebook to post one thing you are grateful for every day in November to really get our attention.
Scientific research has shown that the benefits of gratitude are astounding. And while the benefits of gratitude are nearly endless just by recognizing an opportunity for gratitude, those who regularly practice and reflect on things they are thankful for experience things like better sleep, more positive emotions, more happiness, feel more alive, and even have stronger immune systems.
And expressing gratitude doesn’t have to be complicated. But I do feel it has to be thoughtful. It’s fairly easy to start a practice of gratitude but then lose steam when we run out of the easy and obvious things to list.
Here are a couple of ways to keep your gratitude momentum throughout the entire year.
1. Identify the things that can keep practicing gratitude from becoming a habit
Any new practice is not going to stick until you make it a habit. New habits are hard to form because we always have things that get in the way before they become permanent. Although, why does it seem like bad habits are always easier to make permanent than good habits?? Anyway, being able to identify possible roadblocks or obstacles before they happen can help you plan for how to handle them.
Don’t have enough time? Then don’t try to do gratitude journaling for 60 minutes a day. Start out by setting aside 10 minutes a day to journal. A smaller time frame is much more realistic and easier to stick to.
Are you always tired at the end of the day? Then don’t try to journal before bed. While listing everything you are grateful for at the end of the day is a great way to wrap up, beginning your day with what you are grateful for is a great way to get your day started.
2. Don’t overlook the smaller stuff
As I said before, the big stuff is obvious. I can’t even begin to tell you how grateful I am for my family, the house we live in, the people we have in our lives, our careers. But once you get through the big items, it’s not uncommon to lose momentum because we feel we have to think too hard to come up with anything new. Here’s a tip, it doesn’t have to be earthshattering for you to be grateful for it. I mean, I’m very grateful for ice cream. Anyone else with me on that?
Ever been stuck in traffic but the weather is awesome and you can have the sun roof of your car open? How about being grateful for those few extra moments of just sitting with the sunshine. Bonus if a great song is on the radio, too!
Ever experienced a disappointment only to realize the change in course or alternative ended up being exactly what you needed when you needed it. How about being grateful for opportunities to grow and learn through those times in your life?
What about all of the awesome people in your life. Shift the focus of your gratitude from circumstances or material things to people and it will enhance the benefits you receive from practicing gratitude. And, remember to make it specific.
Maybe a friend or family member invited you over for dinner one night saving you from having to come up with what to have for dinner and then making dinner. I know I’m always grateful to those who give me a break.
Maybe your child emptied the dishwasher without being prompted. Instead of focusing on “it’s about time” you shift your focus to gratitude for the time it saved you or gratitude for the responsibility they are taking around the house? Now, that’s something worth journaling!
3. Make it fun by mixing it up
Doing something the same way every time gets boring. And if something is boring, we are going to be less likely to follow through with it every day. So, find creative or new ways to express your gratitude.
I believe that true gratitude goes deeper than just listing items you are grateful for each morning. I think the opportunity to reflect on those things in a deep way is what really helps us to fully understand how blessed we are. So, instead of just listing the things you are grateful for every day, pick only one thing and write several sentences about it. You will build a stronger connection and meaning to the instance or person and will come to appreciate it/them even more.
Instead of writing in your gratitude journal every day, incorporate a gratitude jar into your practice. Any time you experience a spontaneous moment of gratitude, write it on a piece of paper and put it into your jar. Whenever you are feeling a little down, you can go through and read your entries. Another great way to review the year is to sit down on New Year’s Eve and read every piece of paper you’ve place in your gratitude jar. It’s a fun way of keeping track and encourages you to “keep an eye out” for something to be grateful for.
Another way to mix it up is to write a gratitude letter to someone or share your moments of gratitude around the dinner table at night.
Expressing gratitude year-round does not need to be a chore or a burden. That defeats the purpose, right? But finding ways to practice gratitude every day will significantly increase your well-being and life satisfaction. It leads to a shift in mindset and a lightness in your life. A lightness that can really only be found when you begin to count your blessing more than just once a year.