GRATITUDE PRACTICE: HOW TO USE GRATITUDE TO IMPROVE YOUR LIFE
Every morning I find the time to write a gratitude list. It only takes a few minutes to brainstorm 5-10 things I’m really grateful for in my life but it sets me up for the day and helps me clarify and focus on my priorities. Check out this post on how to create a regular gratitude practice to improve your life.
WHY GRATITUDE IS IMPORTANT
Gratitude is one of our most powerful mindsets and tools for improving our life and how we feel about it. Gratitude costs nothing but is priceless!
Modern life encourages us to do, be and chase more. We compare our lives with that of others. We complain about things, wish we had something else and end up feeling frustrated, resentful and envious.
A regular gratitude practice encourages you to focus on what you have, instead of what you have not. And, when you begin to reflect on the positive things, you’re more likely to tend to and nurture them.
Instead of the grass being greener on the other side of the fence, it’s more a case of the grass is greener where you water it. (Neil Barringham)
THE BENEFITS OF A REGULAR GRATITUDE PRACTICE
At first you might consider creating a regular gratitude practice to be just another task for your To Do list. That is, if you even remember doing it at all! To be honest, I used to think like this until I tried it myself and discovered the benefits.
Now I realise that just five minutes spent writing my list, which I do as part of my regular minimalist morning routine, is probably one of the best things I can do to set myself up for the day ahead.
Here are some of the benefits I’ve discovered…
1. Gratitude makes it difficult to have a bad day
I soon found that it was really difficult to have a bad day when I’d started that day off writing how lucky I was! Whenever I could feel myself getting grumpy, frustrated, upset, worried, overwhelmed, annoyed or just plain worn out, thinking of all the good things in my life helped me overcome these feelings instead of wallowing throughout the day.
2. Emotions change
Yes, I might temporarily be feeling one or more of these difficult emotions, but I knew it was temporary. It was just a natural human reaction to whatever was going on around me at that moment in time. It didn’t necessarily mean that everything in my life was going wrong. Instead I began to accept those feelings and understand they were just a signal that something was out of alignment. Ongoing feelings needed addressing in some way.
3. Gratitude helps you keep perspective
I could think back to my list and what I’d written that day, or the rest of the week, and focus on all the reasons that I had to be grateful. This would keep me going, perk me up, shift my bad thoughts to good ones and generally lift my spirits. Reflecting on my list helped shift my mindset and thinking positively and clearly about what I’d written helped me look at the bigger picture of why I was feeling like I did, instead of getting caught up in the small detail.
4. My family benefits too
Better still, it’s not only me that benefits, but my family does too. I feel calmer, more patient, happier, relaxed and present. Not only does this make for a happier me but I think it makes me a better parent and partner. I feel it’s worth me doing it for that reason alone and I certainly notice a difference when I’ve skipped a day’s gratitude.
5. Gratitude helps me prioritise
My list also helps me remember what’s most important to me and therefore what and where I should focus my time and energy throughout the day. If you’re really grateful for something then you should make it a priority and spend time nurturing it. Yet sometimes, we’re so caught up in our normal daily routine that we move on auto-pilot without thinking about the intention behind it. Many of us need to go to work to pay the bills for example but are there other things we do by habit that it’s maybe time to change?
6. Identifying common themes and patterns
After a while, I’d accumulated many gratitude lists and sometimes I look back over them. Often there are common themes or things that crop up regularly for which I’ve been grateful. Sometimes you can use these lists to see if there’s anything that you could incorporate into your daily life because you’re obviously really grateful when you’ve done them! Gratitude lists are more than just things you’re grateful for. They’re useful for prioritising and focusing, whether that’s on your family, your schedule, your career or your self-care – or something else!
EXAMPLES FROM MY OWN GRATITUDE PRACTICE
So you can start to think about what you might like to write in your list, here are some examples from my own gratitude list…
- Taking a walk in our local woods so I can get back to nature, listen to the birds sing, and breathe in some fresh air
- Have a bit of me-time each day to read a book or enjoy a cup of tea or listen to music
- Spending time chatting with my kids, asking them how their day was and listening to the funny stories they tell me of what happened!
- Trying to eat healthy and make good choices about what I put into my body
- Catching myself before I yell at the kids (something I’m always working on) and trying to remain calm at all times!
As you read on, keep thinking about the things in your day that you’re really grateful for but which you normally take for granted or don’t stop to think about…
WHEN TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE IN YOUR DAY?
In order for something to become a regular habit, it’s a good idea to try to do it every day, at the same time each day if possible. Choose a time of day when you could honour your own gratitude practice without interruptions, excuses and procrastination.
- When are you most likely to have peace and quiet to think?
- When could you feel inspired but relaxed?
- When is your brain least likely to be on overdrive?
I love to spend time on my gratitude practice first thing in the morning if I’m writing it down in my journal. I also like to make a mental gratitude list last thing at night whilst I’m lying in bed waiting for sleep.
Both these times book-end my day so, no matter what that day looks or feels like, I can practice gratitude for all the things that I’m grateful to have experienced, learned or enjoyed!
When would be a good time to write your own gratitude list?
WHAT COULD YOUR GRATITUDE PRACTICE LOOK LIKE?
A gratitude list is nothing fancy and is exactly what it says on the tin. It’s a list of things that you’re really grateful for in your life.
You don’t need to write a lot of words. It doesn’t need to be in long, carefully constructed sentences. Nobody but you needs to be able to read it, so it doesn’t matter if it’s in squiggly handwriting in bright pink marker pen!
Preferably you should have a little notebook that you use specifically for your gratitude list. Writing lists on scraps of paper means you’re more likely to lose them. It’s also difficult to keep them all together in some kind of order in case you’d like to read back over them.
Keep it safe and near to hand so you can get to it easily first thing in the morning. You don’t want to be put off from writing just because you can’t find the notebook easily!
HOW TO WRITE YOUR GRATITUDE LIST
- Keep your sentences as brief, or as long, as you like – there are no constraints about how grateful you feel!
- Bullet point the list so you can easily see the different things you’re grateful for. This way they won’t get lost in a whole load of long sentences and you’re less likely to wander off topic and ramble. Stay focused!
- When you first start your list, you’ll probably be writing broad topics of things such as being grateful for your kids, your partner, your family, your home etc.
- Gradually become more detailed. When you’ve been writing your gratitude list for some time, you’ll notice that things you’re grateful for become more detailed. Not only will you be searching for more things to be grateful for (instead of repeating yourself day in, day out) but you’ll also be more generally aware of things to be grateful for as you’ll be thinking about it during each day. You’ll be keeping a look out for what you can write on tomorrow’s list!
- Don’t get too caught up on what you feel you should or shouldn’t include. There’s no right or wrong here and no-one is going to judge you for what you’ve included (or excluded, for that matter).
- Write each bullet point of gratitude as it pops into your head. Don’t spend ages trying to describe it on paper with long, complicated words. As long as you know what you’re talking about and will be able to understand and remember what you’ve written when you look back on it, then that’s all that’s needed.
FOR DAYS WHEN YOU CAN’T THINK OF ANYTHING
It’s important to acknowledge that some days will be easier than others. It might be that your creative juices are flowing easier or you’ve had a really good day the day before and you’re buzzing.
However, some days you might feel a little more down and struggle to come up with a full list. Maybe things just haven’t been going right, or you’ve had a set-back, or a particularly difficult or traumatic time recently. That’s perfectly ok and we all have times when we feel the world is against us and that everything is just going wrong.
Yet, even in these difficult seasons of life, try really hard to think of something to be grateful for, however small.
Write it down, make a note at the bottom of your list of anything that’s going on for you right now to explain why your list isn’t very long (just in case you come back to look at it another time).
FURTHER RESOURCES ON MINDSET AND GRATITUDE
I hope you found this post helpful on how to write a morning gratitude list and why it’s important.
A daily gratitude list is really one of the best (and simplest) things you can do to help yourself have a better day. It will also help you find ways to clarify and focus on what’s important to you and adds value to your life and do more of it!
Here are some other resources you might find helpful on mindset and self-care:
- How to declutter your mind: 24 practical tips
- Essential mindsets to help you get more out of life
- 6 self-care habits for your daily routine
- 50 simple self-care ideas that take 10 minutes or less
- 30-day Gratitude Challenge
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I’m Antonia and on this blog I share practical inspiration to simplify your home, time and life. Follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Pinterest! You can also subscribe to Balance Through Simplicity and receive regular simplicity tips straight to your inbox for free. Make sure you never miss an article plus you’ll get a copy of my free Declutter Starter Kit as a welcome gift!