Do you have a gratitude practice?
People who practice gratitude experience fewer aches and pains and they report feeling healthier than other people, according to an analysis published in Personality and Individual Differences.
I’m one of those people who’s always liked the idea of having a gratitude practice. You know, a time each day when you pause to consider things for which you are most grateful. I would typically set aside a few moments before I fell asleep to acknowledge something from my day that really stood out.
Getting Stuck and Unstuck
At first, it was easy to think of things, but then, after running through all of the “usual suspects”, I would get stuck. How could I make this a practice that was continuously authentic and meaningful and not just another to-do on the list?
Don’t get me wrong, I am immensely blessed. But, each night, the list of things that popped into my head became a bit automatic and predictable. And, although I am very grateful for my wonderful husband and my amazing son, our health, and our home, after a couple of rounds, these thoughts no longer resonated deeply enough to evoke the feelings of gratitude I desired. I needed a new approach. One that would capture the small things as well as the large. And one that would remind me of all of the things I’ve created in my life, the good, the great, and the improvement. After all, it’s the combination of all of our experiences that make life rich.
I knew I needed a method that was quick and easy because when my head hits the pillow, I want to sleep! So, I’ve started to practice Stream-of-Consciousness Gratitude. I simply choose one event from my day, or one item near me and let the gratitude begin unfolding.
Last night went something like this: I am grateful for the long hot bath I took before bed, for the amazing essential oils that made it feel and smell so good, for my Ayurveda guide who taught me to use the oils, for the (sometimes frustrating) remodeling project that created my spa bathroom, for the weekend in LBI, with my husband that inspired the whole project. I’m grateful for learning to appreciate the moments, a lesson it took me some time to really get. I’m grateful for all of the lessons the universe sends, even the tough ones that it sends over and over until I finally catch on.
Other times, I start with an object. The book I’m reading, the journal on my nightstand, or the art on our bedroom walls. All inspire gratitude for the memories they evoke, the pleasure in choosing them, and the trail down which those memories lead.
The Practice: Keep it Simple
One of the biggest obstacles to adopting any new practice is making it seem more difficult or time-consuming than it really is. So start here, right now, in less than one minute. Look at your desk, your tabletop, or even your screen, find one item for which you are grateful. Think about where you acquired it, who you were with, or how it makes you feel when you use it. Congratulations! You’ve got the process down and now like any practice, it just takes…well, practice.