4 Practices to Cultivate Gratitude
Typically in November, I focus my class themes on Gratitude. I know, I know. Everyone else does this too. But I try to shake it up a bit. So, I thought I would bring this theme of gratitude to my Yoga Nerd friends. This week, I’m sharing ideas to practice gratitude.
But first, WHY do we need to find gratitude in our lives (other than the fact that people tell us we SHOULD be grateful.) Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can improve our lives. First, people who practice gratitude have a higher self-esteem. Studies show that grateful people take better care of their health. They exercise more often, eat better and see the doctor for wellness checkups. Second, gratitude practices reduce depression and increase happiness. People who practice gratitude are less frustrated or resentful and have less envy and regret. Third, gratitude helps people sleep better. Basically, by practicing gratitude, we bring a sense of peace into our lives.
All of that sounds fantastic, yeah? So how do we do this gratitude thing?
Here of my four favorite ways to practice gratitude.
#1 Gratitude Journaling
This is the most common type of gratitude practice and it is very simple. Find a journal or simply dedicate a spiral notebook to be a gratitude journal. (Hint: if you use a spiral notebook, you can decorate the front to make it special.) Every day before you go to sleep, write down at least 3 things you are grateful for from the day.
Now, some people say that doing this every day can become a chore and you lose the sense of gratitude. Because of this, some people recommend doing it once a week. As for me, I don’t think it matters a huge amount. Do it as often as you want whenever you want, just as long as you Do IT!
With that being said, there is a benefit of having a regular time to do it, whether it be every day, every other day, only on Sundays, etc. If you have a schedule, you will be more likely to remember to do it. Also, even though you can do it any time of day, studies show that spending 15 minutes gratitude journaling before bed can improve your sleep.
The objective is to help you become more aware of your overall gratitude throughout your day.
#2 Gratitude Jar
If you aren’t into journaling, a fun little alternative is a “Gratitude Jar.”
To make a gratitude jar, find a sturdy container. It can be a glass jar, a box with a lid, etc. Just make sure it’s big enough to put lots of folded pieces of paper in. Then get a pad of square papers and a pen to keep near by. Many people take the next step of decorating the jar because, well, decorating is fun and since it is out on display somewhere in the house, it might as well look nice.
Every day, take a piece of paper and write down three things you are grateful for. Then, when you are having a bummer day, you can open up your gratitude jar and read some of the pieces of paper. Hopefully, it will bring a smile to your face and lighten your bummer day.
#3 Memory Jar
This is the type of jar we have in our house. It is the same type of container as a gratitude jar. You typically start a memory jar in January and, as the year progresses, whenever something fun or happy happens in your life you write it down on a piece of paper and put it in the jar. At the end of the year, you open the jar and read all the memories you have experienced. Smiling and remembering is a good way to close out the year. But the point is, you become aware in the moment when something is good, and you write it down. This practice not only helps you be present, it helps you focus on the good times in your life.
Another good thing about the memory jar is that it can be a family affair. Everyone can write down a fun or happy thing and put it in the jar. And then, at the end of the year, you can sit as a family and remember the good times. Maybe it could become a New Year’s Eve activity.
#4 Gratitude Inventory
A Gratitude Inventory is basically a list of questions to answer prompting gratitude. It kind of reminds me of those “get to know you” lists of questions that people make up and pass around on Facebook. Questions like, “What was your first car?” “Do you have a tattoo?” “Do you have any nicknames?” “What was your first pet?” You get the idea.
I found this idea on a blog post titled, “Gratitude Prompts – 100 Things to Give Thanks For.” You can go to this page to read the blog and see all 100 prompts as well as the author’s example answers. Here are some of the prompts I liked in particular.
I am grateful for these 3 things I hear/see/smell/touch/taste.
I am grateful for these 3 animals.
I am grateful for these 3 friends.
I am grateful for these 3 things in my home.
I am grateful for these 3 strangers who helped me.
I’m grateful for these 3 things I love to wear.
I’m grateful for these 3 TV shows I enjoy.
I’m grateful for these 3 life lessons I’ve learned.
I’m grateful for these 3 trips.
I’m grateful for one thing that hasn’t happened yet, but I‘m giving thanks anyway because I know that it will.
I love the mixture of big stuff and small stuff in these prompts. It makes you realize the small things that bring you joy as well as the big things that keep you going.
If none of the suggestions above seem to resonate with you, do a search on the internet. There are tons of other gratitude practices out there. What is important is that you somehow find a way to find gratitude in your life. Because, according to Oprah Winfrey, gratitude is a game changer in your life.
“When you surrender and stop resisting and stop trying to change that which you can’t change, but be in the moment, be fully open to the blessings you’ve already received and those that are yet to come and stand in that space of gratitude…and look at where you are and how far you’ve come and what you’ve accomplished – when you can claim THAT and SEE that, the literal vibration of your life will change.” ~ Oprah Winfrey
I am grateful to each and every one of you for reading my blogs and being part of my Yoga Nerd Family. I am truly blessed.
More gratitude to come in the following weeks. Same Bat Time, Same Bat Station.
Do you have a different type of gratitude practice? I’d love to hear about it! I’m always looking for new ways to find gratitude in my life. If you don’t, do one of the practices above catch your eye?
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