When the going gets tough, it’s easy to feel like crawling under a blanket with a family sized bar of chocolate and the Downton Abbey boxset. Counting our blessings can provide a guiding light in times of darkness, lifting our spirits and helping us to work through times of stress, hurt, upset and even anger. In this feel-good article, Life Coach Julie Leoni shares her tips for practising gratitude every day.
John Milton (Poet) once said: “Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.”
This is so true for me. The more I focus on what I have in my life to be grateful for, the more vibrant life becomes and the more alive I feel.
When John Milton wrote those words between 1608 and 1674 he didn’t understand the biology behind what he was saying. Today we know that gratitude practices can fire up four different neurotransmitters: dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins; all of which make us feel good.
Here are nine simple ways to practise gratitude every day.
Prepare for a day full of things to be grateful for
When you wake in the morning, take five minutes to think about all the things you have to look forward to that day. It could be your first cup of coffee, seeing a colleague at work, taking a walk in the sun, meeting friends for lunch or simply hugging your kids in bed. This early-morning exercise pre-wires our brain to look for things to be grateful for.
Keep a gratitude journal
Buy yourself a special journal (or set up a file on your phone or computer) and as you go through your day (or at the end of each day if that suits you better), write down everything you feel or felt grateful for. Chances are that you’ll find that there is more in your life to be grateful for than you expected. Recording the positive events of your day is such a small thing, but the effects can be mighty – writing in your gratitude journal regularly will encourage your brain to focus on what went well rather than fretting about the past or the future.
Write a Thank You letter
When was the last time you said thank you to someone special, simply for being who they are and making a difference in your life? So many people help us in our lives and often we don’t or can’t take the time to notice and appreciate them all. I was so glad that at Christmas I had written an email to my Light Holder Alan, telling him all the things I appreciated that he had helped me with and what he meant to me. He died a few weeks later. I am so glad he knew that I appreciated him.
Compliment other people
The other day after a swim I noticed a lady drying her hair; it looked so shiny and radiant I told her. She was thrilled and I felt wonderful for having made her day. When you pay someone a compliment, not only do you make them feel good about themselves, but you feel good yourself, so you create double the good feeling. Of course compliments must be sincere; don’t fake a compliment; people can tell.
Celebrate together with friends and family
People often gather together at moments of significance such as funerals, weddings and the birth of a child, and all cultures have rituals which are public and shared. These gatherings allow people to connect with each other about the same experience and this is a key way that we build and reinforce bonds. By why wait? We don’t need the next wedding to come along before we get our loved ones together. Whether it is an anniversary, a success, a job well done, good fortune or ‘just because’, celebrating when things go well allows us to focus attention on the positive.
I’m not at all religious but my family and I were at a gathering recently where a grace was said in appreciation of the food we were about to eat. You don’t have to be religious to have an appreciation-sharing at meal times. Before you start your meal, why not take turns to share what made you feel grateful that day, what made you happy? In turn listen to the things your family have appreciated.
Go on a Gratitude Walk
If you’re finding it hard to see things in your day to be grateful for, take yourself for a walk outside; even a short walk will do. As you are walking use all of your senses to pay attention to the world around you, the blue of the sky, the melody of birdsong or the soft, subtle smell of roses. As you notice things, say thank you for your sight and all the things that you can see, your hearing and all the things you can hear, your sense of touch and all the things you can feel, your sense of smell and all the things you can smell.
We take our senses and the simple things that we habitually experience for granted. Be grateful for the road you are walking along, the air, the sun or the rain, the birds, the shops, the traffic.
Share gratitude with your children
Teaching your children how to be appreciative and grateful in their lives creates a healthy habit which will stand them in good stead as they grow up. Play Roses, Thorns and Appreciations with them at the end of the day. Here’s how:
Each person takes it in turn to talk and no one is allowed to interrupt; this is not a conversation, it is an opportunity to listen deeply and respectfully to each other. A Rose is anything that has gone well, that they liked, that they thought was fun. A Thorn was anything they didn’t like or enjoy. Appreciations are things that they want to appreciate in themselves or other people so if someone has helped them or done something for them, this is their chance to express gratitude for that.
Find the learning or the gem in difficult situations
Life can be hard. When death, loss or sickness come into our life it is hard to see this as something to be grateful for and yet if we look hard, we will find things; the people who rallied to support, the new perspective which the experience gives you, your ability to survive in the face of adversity. There isn’t always a positive in every situation, but often there can be a lesson, if you are brave enough to look for it.
“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognise how good things really are.”