“When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.” Lao Tzu
If I do say so myself, I think that by now, the case has been made as to why gratitude is important for living your best life.
The ultimate goal is to have gratitude come so easily and naturally, that our daily lives are filled with gracious moments; “I’m grateful for that wonderful meeting”, “I’m grateful for how well that conversation went”, “I’m grateful for my mom who calls me in the middle of the day to say hi”, “I’m grateful for the sunshine today”, “I am grateful for my nice ass” (haha you get the point). There are countless reasons to be grateful, no matter who you are or what your situation may be: you just have to learn to see them.
So how can you start cultivating gratitude?
1. Write down the things you are grateful for every day:
Keep a gratitude journal around. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, just keep a designated book where you write down the things you are grateful for on a daily basis. Sure, you can always recite these in your mind (which I’ll admit, I mostly do), but something about seeing the blessings of life written down in black and white really makes a difference. You can capture with your eyes all there is to give thanks for.
2. Choose the right time and plan for obstacles
Choosing a designated time to commit to an action is one of the best ways to create new habits. Be realistic about what time of the day will truly be realistic for you to commit to this quick exercise. If you know that your mornings are already too busy, or that you’re simply too exhausted at night, then plan around these times and choose the time that’s best for you. The idea is to make things easy for yourself, never harder.
3. Do it every day – no matter what
Even on the days when you’re not feeling particularly grateful, commit to writing this list (and try to make it at least 5 things).
I love this excerpt from an article on tinybuddha.com. It’s a story of a girl who had suffered what seemed like a hurricane of losses and felt like throwing in the towel. Then her and her partner decided to start listing the things they were grateful for and start focussing on those. It was a journey they would embark on together.
“Now I gave thanks for the silence that enabled me to hear the birdsong in my New Zealand garden, for my tea and toast, for my cozy bed, for the clear blue sky. She gave thanks for the good deeds she had been able to do that day and for the help others had given her. She gave thanks for the beautiful day, for her pizza, and for the delicious water she was able to gather from an underground spring near her house in upstate New York…Slowly, over time we awoke to the true value of our health, our deeply comforting long-distance love, the air we breathed, and the hot water that flowed in our homes. Slowly over time we came to see that, even amidst the loss and seeming deprivation, we were actually rich beyond words.”
4. Get specific
As you progress and become consistent with your gratitude journal, start writing specific instances that you are grateful. Writing how grateful you are for your family is of course wonderful, but if you write this day after day, week after week, it loses its flair and you don’t open up your mind to all the moments of the day that you should truly be grateful for.
The more you practice this, the better you will get at seeing beyond what is directly in front of you to be grateful for. This is when the things really start opening up for you, and the good vibes start flowing. Life becomes brighter, things become clearer and perspectives are renewed.
5. Share your gratitude
I remember reading in Arianna Huffington’s book, Thrive about how her and her friend would send each other their gratitude lists every night. This is a beautiful practice because you encourage each other to commit to your gratitude lists. But if you find that your gratitude lists are a little too personal to be shared, try something else. Tell yourself that once a week you will send a letter, or even a short text (talk about modern gratitude) to someone, expressing your gratitude for something they did or the role they’ve played in your life. Spread those good vibes!
Ultimately, the best thing to do is to start! Pick the simplest way to begin and just do it. No excuses.
Peace, love and endless gratitude,