For any fans of The Office out there, Pam Beesley said it best: “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.”
It is easy to get swept up in the chaos of the day to day craziness worrying about who needs to be where, who forgot what, and what deadlines are coming up for work. At the end of the day, it is easy to find yourself exhausted, reflecting on the blur of the day and wondering, “Where is the time going?”
At first glance, the day may seem monotonous, but if you really stop to pause, you can find beauty and enjoyment in the little things that life is all about!
I realized that if I didn’t slow down and take a moment to be grateful and thankful for the wonderful things in life, then life would surely pass me by.
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Benefits of Practicing Gratitude
Once you get into the routine of practicing gratitude, the benefits come flooding in. Here are just a few benefits of practicing gratitude:
- Improved mental health through the power of positivity: When you actively practice gratitude on a regular basis, you will soon find your perspective and approach to things will be more optimistic. Pretty soon, you’ll notice it isn’t so hard to cancel out those negative thoughts of the past and you will approach small obstacles productively and calmly.
- Improved physical health: When your mind is at ease, your body can heal. Through practicing positive thinking and looking for the little things to be grateful for, it won’t feel like you’re working against yourself and building those stress levels. Instead of wasting that energy on worrying about the infiltrating pessimistic thoughts, you’ll have a new bank of energy to spend on yourself, which will in turn prevent burnout. And let’s be honest – good health is one of those big things we can also be grateful for!
- Improved mental health – Yup, I said it again! While it seems so simple, practicing gratitude is rooted in many recommendations from mental health professionals. This strategy can be utilized with people experiencing anxiety, mental illness, or with history of trauma. I am no medical professional, but I will be the first to admit I can get a little wound up as a Type A personality. With this comes unnecessary worry and catastrophizing on a daily basis. Through actively practicing gratitude, it helps to reframe my thoughts and stay in control by staying ahead of the worry!
- You simply become a better person. By this I mean, I feel like I have become a more loving and caring wife and mother in my own life. Seeking out the positive through identifying the very things I am grateful for causes me to take pause and think before I speak. I have become a more patient person which has improved my relationships and it makes me feel proud; proud to be the person others can come to for advice, wisdom, and generally, kindness. Isn’t this what life is about?
- Joy! In the words of Brene Brown, “There is no joy without gratitude.” If you haven’t heard of her yet, if there is one thing you take away from today’s light read, it is to check out her work! By allowing yourself to be vulnerable and live wholeheartedly, which she discusses in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection, you allow yourself to let go of the worry and lean into the joyful moments in life.
Just like any other daily habit, being grateful is a practice. Be patient with yourself, as it is a process. There are plenty of things you can do to practice gratitude and make it part of your routine, so try these gratitude exercises out and see what works best for you!
I hate to say it, but I scoffed at this strategy at first, until I tried it out! To me, keeping up with a gratitude journal seemed almost too simple and with my old mindset I said to myself “I don’t have time for this! How is adding something else to my plate supposed to help me?”
But, just as with exercise, when you put your health and wellness first, you’re planting the seeds for success in your life and the lives of others.
Further, when I tried it out, I realized it was pretty powerful to start my day off with a positive mindset, and it actually didn’t take long at all! In about 5 to 10 minutes, I can hammer out at least 5 different things I am grateful for. Don’t overthink it- Look for the small things!
Here’s a little tip from the left handed folks in my family: They are thankful for this journaling notebook made especially for lefties!
Daily Gratitude Practice
One year leading up to the Thanksgiving holiday, throughout the month of November we did an activity where each family member wrote a note on a paper leaf and clipped it to a banner in our dining room. When Thanksgiving day came, we read all of the leaves together. It was such a nice feeling to share all the various things our family had listed (including a few funny things from the kids).
We all enjoyed this so much that we all decided that the following year’s resolution would be to practice being thankful on a more consistent basis. Why share all these great things just during the holiday season? We wanted to identify those good times the rest of the year too!
What works for our family is doing this daily at dinner time – we each share one thing we are grateful for or the best thing that happened to us that day. (We call it “one good thing.”)
No matter the time in your day – even on bad days or during difficult times – find a time to actually verbalize what you are thankful for.
My little ones have absolutely loved this Zen Pig series. Not only does it help remind all of us to practice gratitude, but it teaches them mindfulness too!
In the morning I journal to get my mind on that optimistic path. In the evening, I reflect on the day through some quiet meditation in bed. I focus on relaxing my body (again, great for your mental and physical health), my breathing, and as I breathe out, I think of one thing I am thankful for from the day.
If you aren’t big on meditation or have never tried it, you can still do a version of this little gratitude exercise. Before you fall asleep, close your eyes and take a few deep breaths to relax and center your body. Recount your day, and see if you can name something good about your day. It could be your hard work that day, smiling at a single person, hearing your favorite song on the radio, or even knowing that you have great ideas to make positive changes in your life (even if they haven’t happened yet).
Falling asleep with positive thoughts can help you sleep better and wake up refreshed!
I think this was the hardest, but also most rewarding gratitude practice that has helped me. When I started this work, I quickly realized how negatively framed my thoughts inherently were.
So, every time a thought popped into my head where I immediately felt that body tension, I actively stopped and asked myself, “What is the silver lining? What am I thankful for about this scenario?”
Instead of: “Ughhhhh dinner again? I have to make dinner for this family of 6 again?!” I started to remind myself “I am thankful my family is lucky enough to come together almost every night at dinnertime. I am thankful to live somewhere where I can run to the store to whip up a healthy, fresh meal with their favorite foods.”
Instead of: “Gahhhh please stop hanging on me and let me get my work done,” I have learned to stop what I am doing, embrace the distraction from my children, and give extra cuddles to my little ones who won’t be little for much longer. I remind myself the days are long but the years are short.
Things I am Thankful For
It would be impossible to write a list of things that includes every one of the amazing things in my life. There are just too many beautiful things that I appreciate! But writing out a gratitude list with a few of the good things is helpful to read, especially when I need a reminder during the hard times.
This is just a short list of the things I am grateful for every single day.
- I am thankful for my family, that I have them here with me daily.
- I am thankful for my house that I am slowly making into a home.
- I am thankful for my health so that I can run, sweat, and motivate others daily.
- I am thankful for my job, which doesn’t even feel like work.
- I am thankful for my good friends and coach family for inspiring me to be who I am.
- I am thankful for my pets, who provide the best emotional support anyone could ask for.
- I am thankful for waking up! No matter what the day brings, we have the gift of life and it needs to be cherished.
- I am thankful for our freedom; that we live in a country where we can express our beliefs whether we agree or disagree with one another.
Other (not so) little things:
- Alone time!
- Family game night (we call it FGN) with a board game and my favorite people in the whole world
- Gatherings amongst family and true friends
- Deep conversations with my best friend
- Modern medicine and my immune system
- The ability to earn money
- Good hair days
- Clean water
- Indoor plumbing and hot showers
- Ice cream
- Pumpkin spice lattes
- The feeling of accomplishment
- Grocery stores, creative recipes, and good food
- Long weekends
- Rainy days and a good book
- Encouragement and support form your partner
- Fresh air
- A soft, cozy, down filled bed
- Other hard working people like teachers and front line workers
- The unconditional love and honesty of a child
- Creativity and all the special people who inspire us through the arts
- New discoveries
- Humor and uncontrollable laughter
In short, the power of positivity through the active practice of gratitude cannot be underestimated. It has been life changing for me and I am enjoying this journey of personal growth and thankfulness. There is ALWAYS something to be grateful for.
What Are You Thankful For Today?
November is the month of Thanksgiving, and I just have so much to be thankful for each day. We often get caught up in life and forget to appreciate the small things. Take a few minutes to ask yourself… What are you thankful for today? Comment below, and share how you’ve chosen to practice gratitude.