Giving Thanks: How to Practice Gratitude
Its that time of year again. Thanksgiving. The time of year when we are meant to turn our thoughts to gratitude and what we are thankful for. Sometimes gratitude comes easy. When things are going our way and we are feeling abundant it is easier to give thanks. But what about when things have been hard and don’t seem to ever be going our way? Then gratitude sometimes comes a little harder, maybe through gritted teeth or secretly followed by a snide comment.
I get it. Here’s how to get into a gratitude mindset, even when you’re not feeling it.
Why bother with focusing on gratitude?
First, why should we even spend our limited bandwidth on cultivating a gratitude mindset? There is a bunch of evidence supporting gratitude as a super power. Basically, being grateful can lead to feeling more optimistic, improve relationships, increase motivation, make you sleep better, boost your immune system, and raise your general sense of well being.
Gratitude is a mindset. It requires a shift toward looking for what is positive in any given moment. A habit of positivity and thankfulness is where the superpower comes from. I know that there’s been a time in your life someone has made you force out a thank you, like when your child really wants to help fold the laundry and carefully wads up each and every article of clothing, and saying thank you to her did not make you feel any better about all the wrinkles you now have to iron out.
How to be grateful when the going gets tough.
I know you have a real life with real demands and real stressors and me telling you to put your attention on the parts that don’t suck might feel like I’m asking you to ignore reality and pretend that everything’s great.
“Where you choose to place your attention dictates the reality you get to participate in.”
When we only focus on what is going wrong we are making a space for irritation and negativity to move in. If you are only making room for the suck you end up feeling yucky. Imagine thinking about your child helping with the laundry. Think to yourself “Oh come on, why can’t you be helpful by picking up your toys or entertaining yourself while I cook dinner. I’m going to have to refold all of this and it’s just going to take more time. Ugh!” How do you feel?
Now try thinking with gratitude. “I am thankful my child is so kind. She is learning through practice and I’m glad I get to see her progress as she figures things out. Yes, letting her do it takes longer but I’m grateful for this time with her” How do you feel?
At any single moment there is a whole world of possibility available to you. You can choose to focus on the positive and the good and that focus will become your reality.
Simple ways to practice gratitude.
A quick Google search will reveal about a million ways to practice gratitude. Suggestions will range from keeping a gratitude journal to smiling more to noticing nature. All of them are good suggestions and will help you build a thankful habit.
Just remember, gratitude is a mindset. Allow yourself to shift away from looking for the negative and toward making more room for the possibility of good to be present. What you focus on is what becomes real.