Probably most of us grew up hearing that we need to be grateful for the things we have, the life we are so blessed to live, our health, our families… because not everybody is as fortunate. Words like these often go in one ear and out the other when you’re a kid just like everything else. Even for adults gratitude can be a fleeting thought from time to time, and unfortunately it may take something tragic for us to truly feel or express it. This is just the way things are- maybe we’re selfish or maybe we just don’t know HOW to express and practice gratitude. Gratitude is important because it not only feels good, but it inspires us to do more good in the world. It makes us more joyful, loving, giving, and caring. It makes us better spouses, mothers, and friends. It isn’t a virtue to be taken lightly, but for so long I definitely did.
I’ve been on a personal development journey for several years now, and the real catalyst was the fact that I was just not truly happy doing what I was doing for a living. I had 2 options- stay the course or make a change, and I decided to make a change. The change wasn’t overnight, but with lots of books, blogs, long conversations with my husband, and tons of prayer and self reflection I was able to slowly transition to a life that I truly love. In hindsight I can honestly say that it all came from making the decision to make gratitude at the forefront of my mind. For me this has a lot to do with my faith as a Christian, but religion or faith don’t even have to play a part in practicing gratitude at all.
Gratitude is a choice, and it can be a TOUGH one to make. It needs to be practiced, consciously decided upon, and repeated over and over for it to become a true life-changing habit. I am by no means perfect at this, and I don’t think anyone can be. There are times I choose to complain, bitch and moan, or feel down just like anyone else, but I don’t stay there for very long and I think that’s what makes all the difference. For the past couple years this has slowly and very intentionally become my practice, and I have seen it manifest into awesomeness time and time again. I am a happy person because I choose to be grateful, plain and simple. This is not saying my life is any more perfect than any one else’s, or that I am naive and see things through rose colored glasses. This is hard work, my friends! But it has made a difference in my life and I can even see it trickling down and helping change the lives of my kids too, which to me is such an important legacy.
This past summer I listened to a great book about gratitude on Audible that I highly recommend. It’s called Gratitude Works, by Robert A. Emmon. It’s a “a purposeful guide for cultivating gratitude as a way of life.” It shares evidence based practices and a step-by-step guide on how to live a more grateful life.
Sounds boring, doesn’t it? I know, but it’s not. And even more interesting is the amazing transformation you feel when you actually put this into action!
One practice that this book introduced to me that I have worked into my routine is “gratitude journaling.” I wanted to explain a little about what it is, how to do it, and what it is doing for me. This has just proven to be so freaking beneficial and life-changing. Even in prepping this post I went back and read some of my entries and noticed I just had the BIGGEST smile on my face, and an even bigger one in my heart. I was immediately taken back to the moment of writing down these words and felt all the feelings all over again. It’s that powerful!
Put simply, gratitude journaling is writing down what you are grateful for, and research shows that when people keep a gratitude journal they live a happier and more fulfilled life. By documenting your blessings and gifts, even the mundane, means that you are not taking them for granted. It helps make negativity immediately vanish and truly helps you love your life because it helps you to train your mind to see the good before you see the bad.
These are my top tips to getting started…
Gratitude journaling in this way has helped me not only feel more grateful, but it helps me complain less, and generally just be a happier person. It helps me make bolder decisions because I have intentionally journaled about the positive outcomes of making bold decisions, and how bad life would be otherwise. It helped me decide to start this blog! Keeping my eyes wide open in gratitude has helped me to see all the good in the world, when there is just so much bad right now. It has completely reduced anxiety and daily aggravations. It’s hard to be mad when you are feeling grateful. It’s hard to feel jealous, or depressed, or bitter, or spiritually exhausted. To me, this journaling is a form of prayer or even meditation. Focusing my brain on good, eliminating bad, and feeling the love in my heart.
This can’t do anything but put a new spring in your step and smile on your face. So grab a pen and a notebook… What are you feeling thankful for right now? Write that shit down!