When I was growing up, my mom started a tradition around the holidays. She would have us all write what we were thankful for on index cards and put them in a basket. Then we would read all of them as a family, as well as the ones from the years before. It is such a sweet tradition and it reminds us to take a few moments and remember all of our blessings, especially during the holiday season. This time of year, I see an influx of posts on social media with people sharing all that they are thankful for. It’s so wonderful but it always makes me wish that we were all more vocal about what we are thankful for year round.
Life can be downright hard sometimes. Work is stressful. The kids are fighting. Your to do list is longer than your day. There are more bills than there is money. Some of you are even going through really deep things like grief over losing a loved one or another major trauma. Life knocks the wind out of us more than we would like to admit and that makes it hard for us to feel grateful. When you start a daily gratitude practice you begin to see your blessings shine through even on the darkest days.
Did you know that practicing gratitude can actually improve your health? That is something to be thankful for! According to the National Institutes of Health newsletter, “taking the time to feel gratitude may improve your emotional well-being by helping you cope with stress. Early research suggests that a daily practice of gratitude could affect the body, too. For example, one study found that gratitude was linked to fewer signs of heart disease.” Gratitude not only helps you cope with stress, it also causes you to approach life with more positivity, which can completely change the way you live and feel. It can change your relationships, your mental health, your home life, the environment at the office, how you interact with people, and so much more.
If you don’t already have a daily gratitude practice, it may seem hard to know where to start and how to get into a routine of being grateful. For the first few weeks, you will most likely have to set a reminder on your phone to make the time for it until it becomes more natural. Get a notebook or a journal and start by writing at least three things a day that you are grateful for. Try to do it at different times throughout the day so you can come back to that space of gratitude multiple times a day. Before you know it, you won’t be able to stop writing and you will have a lot more than three things written down each day.
Index cards can also be especially helpful. The places we have the hardest times throughout the day would be the best places to tape up an index card that has your blessings spelled out on it. Perhaps it’s hard for you to look in the mirror and be grateful for the body staring back at you. Write all the things you are thankful that your body does for you on separate cards and tape them all over the mirror so you can see it and be reminded of it daily. Maybe your job is really stressful and you need to remind yourself how blessed you are to have a steady paycheck. The kids may drive you crazy some days but write down what you love about them and how you are so thankful to have healthy children.
There are more ways to practice gratitude than just by writing down what you’re thankful for. Some other ways you can show gratitude are by complimenting people, performing random acts of kindness, donating your time and resources to causes you believe in, and just simply smiling as much as you can. Voicing your appreciation to people in person and through encouraging notes is a great way to practice gratitude, as well as spread it to others.
Gratitude isn’t easy and it takes a lot of work to get to a place where it becomes second nature. Once you get familiar with a gratitude practice that works for you, you will be able to put it into play every day until it becomes a natural part of life. You’ll notice that you have more positivity in your life and you will be able to see the good, even when life gets tough. There is no right or wrong way to practice gratitude. It won’t always be easy or feel natural and that’s okay. Just take it one day at a time and watch it change your life.
-Andrea Kelly, Health Coach
“Practicing Gratitude.” National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 9 May 2019, newsinhealth.nih.gov/2019/03/practicing-gratitude.