I’ve had a gratitude habit for over ten years now, but the pandemic has raised my gratitude bar. If you don’t already practice daily gratitude I’m going to show you how easy it is to incorporate into your life and how beneficial it is, too.
For most of us, keeping our spirits up and positive during this pandemic has been a tremendous challenge. But now, as we begin to turn the corner on Covid-19, I think about the unexpected gifts this time has brought. For me and many I speak to, it’s gratitude—for all we still have despite what has been taken away.
Why Develop the Gratitude Habit
Being grateful not only makes us feel more positive and blessed, it actually changes our brain for the better. "Something as simple as writing down three things you're grateful for every day for 21 days in a row significantly increases your level of optimism, and it holds for the next six months” says Harvard researcher Shawn Achor. In fact he says, this practice can actually train our brains to be happier, and who doesn’t want a happier brain! (Watch his TED talk The Happy Secret to Better Work, he’s very funny and inspiring.)
The following are some simple suggestions for ways you can develop the gratitude habit:
Habit #1: Keep a Gratitude Journal
Achor recommends you find three new things you’re grateful for each day. Searching for new specific reasons to be grateful keeps our brain on the alert for the positive, and actually leaves an imprint on our brain’s neural structure. You may want to express your gratitude in a gratitude notebook to reread when you need an uplift. My friend Jamie, takes it a step further. She writes why she’s grateful for things or people to more fully internalize the feeling and good fortune she derives.
Here’s some reasons to be grateful to get you started: your health and physical abilities; beauty in nature; people who bring you joy and comfort, material objects that make life easier, opportunities, and…
Habit #2: Find Your Best Time
If writing is too much effort, here’s a simpler way that works for me. When I rest my head on my pillow I go through my day and reflect on at least five moments I’m grateful for. Things like watching birds happily gather at my feeders, encouraging words from a dear friend, seeing my son happy in love, and the wholesome food I ate for breakfast. I thank God or the Universal Force for my multitude of blessings and my heart is happy as I drift off to sleep.
If night time doesn’t work for you, start your day on a positive note with gratitude reflections. Research says bookending your day morning or night helps you make it a habit.
Habit #3: Create a Family Gratitude Jar
Another idea is to create a gratitude jar. Label it creatively, keep a stack of colorful slips of paper nearby, and it can even become a family focus. Then from time to time over dinner have everyone pull a strip from the jar to read aloud as a gratitude pick-me-up. It’s a beautiful way to spread the good right where you want it to start.
Habit #4: Express Appreciation
What would our lives be without the people who care for us? How often do we take the time to let others know how much their acts of kindness, big or small, mean to us? And how often do we let another know how they’ve positively impacted our life?
In my book, The Affirming Way of Life: See the Good, Speak the Good, Spread the Good, I devote a chapter to expressing appreciation, because it makes such a difference in the closeness and joy we share in our relationships. Why not take a “grateful pause” to reflect on the kindnesses others show you. Then call, text, email or send a card to let the people in your life know how much they mean to you. A good way to start is to express your appreciation to at least one person a day. You’ll see it will be a gift for both you and the recipient!
I hope I’ve given you some ideas to begin or expand your own gratitude habit. It’s the easiest practice to develop, with none of the ups and downs of dieting or exercise. People often comment on how positive I am, but I wasn’t always. I am certain it’s my gratitude habits that have rewired my brain to be more positive. Hoping this helps you unleash your positive possibilities!