Practicing Gratitude for Wellbeing
Can you believe it’s already Thanksgiving? During this time of year, we hear a lot more about people being grateful and #gratitude posts abound on social media. There’s a lot of strength in practicing gratitude. But how can we tap into those feelings?
The Haves and Have Nots
How do you feel when you’re on Facebook and see those #NovemberGratitude posts? For some people, it can feel like a slap in the face: How do they have so much good stuff when I’m over here feeling sorry for myself? Sometimes, other people’s humbleness is a little hard to swallow. What are they doing that we aren’t?
It’s one thing to be fortunate,but sometimes it’s hard to feel it.Other people’s gratitude can sometimes shut us down because we are not able to access it for ourselves. This can be isolating and lead to feelings of depression. How can we avoid this and pick ourselves up? Here are some simple places to start.
Yes, it’s true: gratitude is personal! What one person is thankful for may not be important to someone else.
It’s essential to recognize the things in your life that are meaningful to YOU. For example, to one person,just paying the monthly bills may be what you are grateful for while others are grateful for a European vacation. Both have meaning to the individual, and one should not obscure the other because it’s personal.
Think about what you are truly grateful for. It can be as small as hearing your child laugh in a certain way or a perfect cup of coffee in the morning. Take time to really live these moments fully; even close your eyes for a breath and let yourself have that good feeling.
Happiness is not a constant state of being but something for which we are constantly, actively striving. We cannot just wait around for it to happen to us; we have to create it. This is also true for gratitude: it is something that needs to be experienced. Think of gratitude more like a verb than a noun. There are ways to actually “practice” that can really change your life.
Say Thank You—and Mean It
Thank you. We say it all day long to strangers for holding the door or to our friends when we see them in a mostly rote and habitual way. Sometimes we don’t even remember saying it.
The next time someone elicits a thank you from you, take a moment to really say it with meaning. You will be surprised at what you get back. More times than not, it can stop another person in their tracks—and you may even get a “you’re welcome.” This connection between people can really make your day—and someone else’s.
See It to Believe It
Buy yourself some Post-It notes and a big glass jar or bowl. If something happens during the day that you feel grateful for, write it down on the Post-It with the date, fold it and put it in the jar. This will give you a visual account of effervescent moments that can be easily forgotten. At the end of the year, say on New Year’s Eve, read them to yourself. Take stock in them and let the memories build a foundation of goodness.
Inside vs. Outside
There are two types of gratitude: one we feel inside as a warm sensation and one we express to others. Expressing gratitude to others, like giving someone a compliment or encouragement, is an external type of graciousness. Do not underestimate the power of this connection. Your gratitude for another could be their Post-It note in their jar one day! Spreading goodness in the form of recognizing others goes a long way, and best of all, it can make you feel good too!
Make the Shift
So, the next time you see an opportunity to feel or share gratitude, take it. At first, it can seem small or insignificant, but taking a moment to feel it can result in a more meaningful moment. Make it your practice every day for a week and see what happens. Make a slight shift from your normal behavior and do something different. The possibilities are endless.