For any fans of The Office out there, Pam Beasley 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 little 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!
- 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. Seeking out the positive through identifying what 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 them 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, it 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 Thanksgiving 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.
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. What works for our family is doing this daily at dinner time – we each share one thing we are grateful for. (We call it “one good thing.”)
No matter the time in your day, 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.
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?” Some examples:
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.”
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
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 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!
- Gatherings amongst family and friends, now more than ever as things have opened up again
- The ability to earn money
- Clean water
- The feeling of accomplishment
- Spices and creative recipes!
- Encouragement and support form your partner
- A soft, cozy, down filled bed
- Other hard working people like teachers and front line workers
- Creativity and all the special people who inspire us through the arts
- New discoveries
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.