When someone tells you that you need to find more ways to practice gratitude are you like “UH OKAY HIPPIE”?
Do you nod politely and mentally add gratitude to your list of Things I Know I Should Be Doing But Realistically Have No Time For? Right between ‘mediation’ and ‘drink more water’?
By now you’ve probably heard all the reasons we should add more gratitude to our lives. It’s scientifically proven that gratitude improves psychological and physical health, strengthens relationships, and it even helps you sleep better!
And maybe you know that already but you can’t quite make the gratitude journal thing happen. That’s okay! There are so many other ways to work it into your life!
11 WAYS TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE WITHOUT A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
1. MAKE IT A DAILY, DINNER-TIME QUESTION
Most nights, we ask each other “What was the best part of your day?” It is, of course, not quite the same as asking a “What are you grateful for today?” but contrarian 10-year-olds seem to do better with the former.
This one question is a sweet little window into each other’s lives. It’s a not-too-parent-y way to check in and a way to keep other people up to date but bore them with minutia.
I mean, you’re probably glad to hear that my podcast interview went well. You’re probably less interested in a 20-minute breakdown on how I pitched said podcast and how I’ll be promoting it. Likewise, I’m glad you made a soccer goal today! Maaaaaybe don’t need a play-by-play on the team dynamics. These short, daily updates keep things fun and positive and (usually) un-boring.
2. GET REALLY SPECIFIC
Vague, gray, over-arching statements don’t really get into our hearts and minds. But the nitty gritty? That sticks.
Not “I’m grateful for my apartment,” but “I’m grateful for the amazing morning light that I get in my living room.”
Not “I’m grateful for my best friend,” but “I’m grateful that Darcie and I share the exact same sense of humor and that the memes she tags me in are ALWAYS spot on.”
Not “I’m grateful for two days off this week,” but “I’m grateful that I have Friday off to hike through Afton State Park.”
You get the idea 😉
3. SNEAK GRATITUDE INTO SMALL TALK
“What are you doing for the holidays?” = snore. “Soooo, what do you do?” = yawn.
“What’s going on in your life that’s awesome right now?” = sure to elicit interesting conversation and good vibes. Asking a stranger “What are you grateful for this year?” can feel a bit heavy-handed and invasive. Asking them “What’s awesome?” feel friendly and light.
4. USE AN APP
If we’re taking out our phones at the bus stop/during commercials/while the coffee brews, why not use that time for something other than Instagram stalking?
The Gratitude Journal app is available for both Android and iphones, it has a 4.5 star rating, and it’s on sale from now through November 28th. Let’s download it, try it, pin it to our home screens, and use that knee-jerk phone-checking habit a bit more productively.
5. TAKE A DAILY PHOTO OF SOMETHING YOU’RE GRATEFUL FOR
It doesn’t have to be beautifully lit, nicely staged, or Instagram-worthy. It can be a grainy photo of your car with the snow scraped off because your roommate is thoughtful. It can be a poorly lit photo of one perfectly ripe peach or your dog making a funny face. It can be a blurry photo capturing the joy of five high school friends who haven’t seen each other in years.
Taking daily gratitude photos pushes you to find something good every single day and since they’re in your phone, you’ll have access to all those happy memories when you’re stuck in a less gratitude-inducing situation.
6. ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE GRATEFUL FOR ‘SILLY’ THINGS
Do you get hung up on finding high-minded, Mother Theresa-esque things for which to feel grateful? In case you need it, this is your permission to let that ish go. You get to feel grateful for WHATEVER YOU WANT.
Without exageration, here are some recent entries in my gratitude journal
1. Kenny’s amazing state employee health insurance so my Retin A costs $18 a tube
2. My super cute coffee mug
3. Friday Night Lights and the character of Tami Taylor
Obviously, I also feel grateful for my health, my career, and the fact that I have enough discretionary income to buy the aforementioned $10 coffee mug. But the importance of good skincare and well-written female tv characters should not be underestimated, guys.
7. ASK YOURSELF WHY YOU’RE GRATEFUL FOR THAT THING
On days when your gratitude battery is running low, it’s easy to fall back on The Usual: “I’m grateful for my health, my job, my family blahblahblahwhateverwhocares.” But when we ask ourselves whywe’re grateful for these particular things, we’re forced to dig a bit deeper and we get a bit more appreciative.
Why are you grateful for your health? Because it allows you to attend dance class. Because it helps you pursue you passions with energy and focus. Because you weren’t always healthy and now that you are, it is awesome.
Why are you grateful for your job? Because your work BFF brightens every single day. Because it feels nice to be good at stuff. Because you believe that your employer is improving this little corner of the world and you love being part of that.
8. MAKE IT A WEEKLY PRACTICE ON YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM OF CHOICE
Not everyone is inclined to share their gratitude publicly but it keeps some of us accountable. On Sundays when I remember, I write a #churchofgratitude post on Instagram. I see friends posting daily or weekly gratitude lists on Facebook. If you like to keep things short and sweet, you can limit yourself to 140 characters on Twitter.
I know it can feel a little ridiculous or braggy to list the good things in your life on a public forum. #Blessed has become such an overused hashtag it’s crossed over into irony. That said, when you share the good things in your life, you might be reminding other people to find the good in theirs.
9. ALLOW NON-AWESOME SITUATIONS TO REMIND YOU OF HOW LUCKY YOU ARE
How many times have you been swimming through life, happily taking things for granted, when you run smack-dab into a reminder of how lucky you are? This might look like your best friend getting laid off, your cousin’s unstable, unhappy relationship, or your co-worker’s health scare.
Theoretically, we know we should be grateful for our job, our happy, healthy relationship, and our low cholesterol levels, but it’s easy to forget. After we’ve asked that best friend/cousin/co-worker how we can help them get through this non-awesome thing, we can take a minute to be grateful that – at least for now – this isn’t an issue for us.
10. LITERALLY TALK TO YOURSELF ABOUT IT
I am a champion car self-talker. Like full-blown, completely out loud conversations, with myself, pretty much anytime I’m in the car alone.
Sometimes these conversations are me + Terry Gross. Sometimes, these conversations are me verbalizing the ways I can find gratitude in an otherwise annoying situation.
“I’m grateful that I have a flexible work schedule that allows me to go to the DMV at 2 pm on a Tuesday.” “I’m grateful that once I get out of this damn traffic jam, I’ll be on my way to a warm house filled with humans and animals who love me.” “I’m grateful that my career is successful enough that it necessitates two hour meetings on a Friday afternoon.”
This weird self-talk calms me down, redirects my sulky energy, and gives me something to do while I sit in stop and go traffic.
11. WHEN SOMEONE DOES SOMETHING LOVELY OR HELPFUL, SAY ‘THANK YOU’ AND, LIKE, MEAN IT
Not the mumbled, automatic ‘Thanks’ when the barista hands us a latte. We’re talking about ‘I’m making eye contact and being almost awkwardly sincere right now.’
“Thank you, I really appreciate your help.” Or “Thanks so much, I know that was a hassle and I really appreciate how you went the extra mile.” Or “Thanks. You handled that beautifully.”
Or if you, like me, glory in emoji and all caps, you can scream “THANK YOU YOU ARE AN ACTUAL GODSEND I CANNOT IMAGINE THIS WORLD WITHOUT YOU ? ? ? ?” over Gchat.
(and then maybe throw in a gif of Phil Dunphy pointing and giving the thumbs up. Just for good measure.)
Creating a gratitude practice doesn’t have to be time-consuming, cheesy, or awkward. It can look and feel exactly the way you want!