What does it mean to be Grateful?

The recent holiday season got me thinking about gratefulness.  Every year around November and December, I see friends on social media posting about all of the things they are grateful for…and most of us sure do have a lot of things to be thankful for.  I love seeing what people are grateful for and I think that recognizing all of the good things in our lives…big and small…is one of the healthiest and best things that we can do for ourselves.  If you ask me, true gratitude is something that we can focus on each day…not only around the holidays.

Gratitude is a tool that I consciously used during a particularly depressing time in my own life.  I was working in a job that I absolutely HATED. I was applying for other jobs but it felt like it was taking FOREVER for them to respond.  Every single day I was sad, cranky, angry, and tired. It reached the point where even showering seemed like too much work, and I clearly remember one day skipping a friend’s graduation party because the thought of showering and getting ready was literally too exhausting.  Anyone who knows me knows THAT’S NOT ME!

At some point around that time, something prompted me to make a list of all the good things I had in my life.  I wish I knew where that list was, but I do remember some of the items: my dogs, my home, my truck, a family that loves me, a sizable list of amazing friends.  You know…the things we are all grateful for if we are lucky enough to have them. But what really struck me what how many relatively little things made that list.  Things like peanut butter coffee creamer and cinnamon toast crunch. Like my Christmas tree and bubble baths. It’s so important to take notice of the little things as well as the bigger things.  

After making and reading over my list, I felt SO MUCH BETTER.  It’s a strategy I have used frequently in the years since when I am feeling down.  Here are some ways that you can invite gratitude into your life:

 

    1. The November List.  If you’re on social media, you’ve probably seen this.  During the month of November, many people make a habit of identifying one thing per day that they are grateful for.  This can be a great way to jump-start your gratitude practice, and it doesn’t have to be in the month of November…any month will do as long as you make it a daily practice.  You can post on social media or keep it private, perhaps in a journal. Whatever works for you.
    2. The Daily Gratitude Log.  Many people enjoy the benefits of taking just a bit of time each day (we’re talking just one minute here) to identify 1-3 things that they were grateful for that day.  If you journal, you can include it in your daily entry. Or jot them down in your planner. A great way to stay accountable to your gratitude practice is to buddy up with a friend and text something that you were thankful for each evening!  
    3. Identify a “Gratitude Trigger.”  Choose an event that happens to you at least once a day.  For example, you might choose your first text or phone call, seeing a dog on the street, or swiping your debit card somewhere.  It really can be anything. Once you choose your “trigger,” start thinking of something you are thankful for each time that trigger happens.  Before you know it, you won’t even have to think about it.

Gratitude isn’t something that we should just be aware of during the holiday season or when we are trying to pull ourselves out of a funk.  Gratitude can become a way of being and thinking everyday. People who are grateful tend to notice more good things in life, especially the little things that add pleasure to our lives (like the steamed chai I am sipping on right now and the chubby dachshund I just locked eyes with outside the coffee shop I am sitting in).  Give gratitude a spin and see for yourself.

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