The Power of Gratitude

“We can always choose to perceive things differently. We can focus on what’s wrong in our life, or we can focus on what’s right.” ~ Marianne Williamson

I recently wrote that I’ve been completely out of sorts lately, experiencing what I call “new year overwhelm.”  I’ve been trying to prioritize all that I want to do this year so I can live a more balanced life, but realized something: I can’t fit it all it.  It’s just not possible.

So then I felt even more overwhelmed and discouraged, and my creativity plummeted.

Then I realized what the biggest problem was: I had stopped allowing joy.

Joy is so important to me, something that took me years to cultivate.  It’s something I want to exemplify for my young boys, yet I had completely lost sight of it.  So now it’s time to remind myself of my real priorities.  I don’t want to be frustrated, short-tempered and emotional all the time choose to live in the moment, enjoy the moment and love life for all its beauty and challenges.

So regardless of what’s on my schedule, joy is a key priority.

And since I’ve realized joy comes from within – it’s not something that a particular person or experience can give me – one of the most powerful contributors to joy, for me, has been a daily gratitude practice.

Practicing daily gratitude helps put daily “stuff” in perspective.  It takes your focus off what may be frustrating you, and attracts more positive into your life.

And, well, my gratitude practice hasn’t been super focused as of late.  But I’m ready to once again allow joy and make my gratitude practice a bigger priority.

In case you don’t have a daily gratitude practice but would like to start, here are some tips:

Take five minutes to yourself, around the same time each day.  Quiet your mind and consciously think about things you’re grateful for, big or small.  FEEL the gratitude.  If you’re in a hectic household and mental quiet is difficult to come by, a good place for it may be in the shower (if you’re speaking it aloud) or when you’re driving somewhere by yourself.  If you’re writing down what you’re grateful for, you can do it in a gratitude journal. This is especially powerful because when you’re having a rough day, you’ll have something positive to look back on to help bolster your spirits.

Keep it real.  For this to be a positive force in your life, it needs to be genuine.  If you run into a day where you’re not feeling particularly thankful for anything, take a few minutes to think of at least one thing you’re truly grateful for – even if it’s that you can go to bed and start fresh the next day.

Write down or speak aloud what you’re grateful for.  This is more effective and “concrete” than having a fleeting thought during the day about something you’re happy about. List anything, like the big stuff: maybe it’s the people who mean the most to you, someone lending you a helping hand when you really needed it or the companionship of a pet, and the little stuff: maybe a hot shower, soothing cup of tea or coffee, a beautiful sunset or great music.

Find a gratitude partner.  Choose a friend or other loved one that would like to practice daily gratitude with you.  Each day, check in with your partner – in person, by phone, text, email or whatever way works best for both of you – to share five things you were grateful for that day.  Some great things about this: since you’ve committed to having a gratitude buddy, you’ll be more likely to notice things to appreciate, and you and your partner are accountable for sharing happiness – what could be better than that?

START!  This is key.  You don’t have to buy a fancy journal or have a “perfect” system worked out, just start.  You will find, over time, what works best for you.  And if you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up about it! Just keep going.  The point is to be consciously aware of what’s amazing in your life, as often as possible.

No matter how you practice gratitude, once you do it regularly, you can’t help but feel more joyful, and you’ll be amazed at the new positivity that comes your way.

Here is a beautiful video clip from SoulPancake on the effect of gratitude on happiness.  Have a tissue ready!

I love how the video shows that expressing gratitude – in particular, directly to the person you’re most grateful for – brings happiness to the person who’s expressing it.  That’s so beautiful when you think about it: you feel wonderful when you share with someone just how much they mean to you and how they’ve impacted your life, and at the same time, you’re making the recipient feel wonderful as well!  How amazing is that?

Do you have a gratitude practice?  If so, have you found it’s made a difference in your life?