If you’ve ever read any success literature or listened to CD programs about how to be successful or how to reach your goals, then you’re very likely familiar with the current focus on “practicing gratitude.”
There are many ways to accomplish this including such things as keeping a gratitude journal, writing little notes of gratitude directly to people you want to thank for something, putting up reminders on the wall where you work or in your home that say something about gratitude, posting words of thanks on social media, and so on. There’s no one correct method.
The idea is to pick something that works for you and do it. There are, however, some qualifications that can make the practice more effective. Here they are!
- Create a system of giving gratitude on a regular basis. It will have more punch than doing it sporadically.
- Write it down. This deepens the experience and encourages more thoughts about gratitude.
- Review what you’ve written down. This cements the feelings so to speak in your brain and over time can alter the way you perceive your own personal reality and circumstances.
- Make a specific time for focusing on gratitude instead of weaving it into other experiences. This will increase the potency of the feelings and pave the way for more, while at the same time creating a daily positive habit.
Here’s a suggested practice you can try, and it goes without saying that you can adjust it to fit your schedule.
The practice consists of writing 10 things you’re grateful for every day. You can write out the list in a journal or type it on a computer. You could get creative and write it on sticky notes and place them around the house or office to remind yourself of them if you like. I like to type rather than write by hand, so I type my list on an iPad every morning.
The items on the list may be elaborate such as saying thanks for something that went really well the day before and describing what happened, or very simple such as being grateful for sunshine that day. The content varies and it really doesn’t matter how simple or elaborate the items are, just so you write 10 things.
My preference is morning before everything ramps up because it helps set the tone for the day and energizes me before I begin work.
Some people prefer the time before bed or in the later evening because they like to end the day on a good note before sleeping.
Any time is fine, but it’s more effective if the time of day you pick is the same every day. Choosing a regular time builds the practice into your daily routine and creates a habit, which means you’re more likely to continue the practice.
Also, by creating a regular habit, you prime your mind to look for things to be grateful for, and you begin to notice things more often that are going well.
The benefits can be subtle or obvious, and over time here’s what you might notice.
Emotional Shift from Negative to Positive
Our minds often gravitate toward the negative. For many, it’s the default position. We focus on what we don’t have, don’t like, feel anxious about, and sometimes feel helpless to change.
By writing a list of what you’re grateful for everyday, you can reprogram your mind to notice things that go right. It doesn’t mean that won’t don’t notice things that go wrong, it just means you also notice things that go right.
This creates a greater balance in perception between the positive and negative.
Ultimately, this can change or expand your overall view of reality to something that’s more accurate and reflective of what your experience actually is.
Writing the list out and then reviewing it is almost always a mood changer.
If you wake up uneasy, anxious, or just plain grumpy, by the time you’ve finished the list, your mood is much better and you approach the rest of the day with a better attitude and a willingness to engage rather than resisting what’s ahead.
It’s like releasing the emergency brake in the car and you go forward much easier.
You’ll also find that your level of appreciation for others is enhanced.
You might notice the things people do for you, or the qualities you appreciate about them rather than focusing on what you’re unhappy about or don’t like.
This change in reality creates a change in your level of emotional receptivity, especially to those with whom you’re close, and ultimately this improves relationships.
This doesn’t mean that you stop working on issues that are of concern, but it does help to see others in a more balanced light and to notice what’s good.
That appreciation is felt by them, and they become more receptive to you and are more likely to respond to you positively. It’s a win-win.
The Habitual Aspect of It Breeds More Good Habits
For me, the discipline of making the list daily has morphed into other daily habits that I’ve piggybacked onto writing the gratitude list. For example, following writing the gratitude list, I spend time in meditation.
Stimulates Positive Action
A good practice is to go back and read your gratitude lists for the month you’re finishing up. It usually brings into focus both the good things that have happened to you over the month as well as the things you’ve accomplished in that time period.
It may also stimulate you to create new goals for the current or upcoming month. Seeing what’s positive and has been accomplished is encouraging and can boost continued action. There’s a desire to add more things to the gratitude list as opposed to lamenting about what you don’t have.
These are just a few of the great effects that come from writing out a daily gratitude list. Try it out and adjust it fit your schedule. You may decide to write more or less than 10 items which is perfectly fine, just so you try it and stick to it.