If you follow anything or anyone in the self-help / self-improvement space, you’ve heard about gratitude and how it can change your life. I’m always a little reluctant to join in on anything that everyone seems to be doing (I didn’t start reading Harry Potter until 2003, folks) so I hadn’t done it or even tried it. But in my post-baby life, I really felt out of sorts and what I normally did to take care of myself, both mentally and physically, was not working. I decided to give it a try.
Let’s begin by looking at who recommends having a daily practice.
Oprah Winfrey is a huge advocate of the power of gratitude. She is a huge believer that good feelings multiple, just the same way that bad feelings do. Even if you feel like you have nothing to be grateful for, Oprah reminds you that you’re breathing, aren’t you? You might even be able to stand up in the morning on your own two feet and walk. Not everyone can do that. Oprah describes her daily practice as beginning each of her days from a spiritual place, often by reading something spiritual. See her describe the power of gratitude.
Marie Forleo, another love of mine, also advocates gratitude with a twist. She states “When it comes to gratitude, the dividends are in the details.” Ooo, love it, right? What she means is that by go into detail about what you’re grateful for, you end up increasing the positive emotions associated with gratitude. Marie is a huge advocate of gratitude journaling, and you can read more about her practice here.
While many people advocate for the power of gratitude through their own experience, what does the science say?
Dr. Robert Emmons, UC Davis professor and author of Thanks!: How Practicing Gratitude Can Make You Happier, discovered that after only 3 weeks, gratitude journalists found themselves about 25% happier than they were AND they had more energy and better sleep. Pretty awesome results! Being happier, having more energy, and sleeping better is the life plan trifecta. Who doesn’t want that?
And this isn’t the only research that shows the positive effects of gratitude. One 2003 study cited by NY Times contributor Arthur C. Brooks discovered that after only 10 weeks, gratitude practitioners found themselves more satisfied with their lives then the control group.
For me, I decided to start a daily gratitude practice because women I know who are achieving the kind of success I would like to have all have one and are quite open to sharing theirs. Sure, Oprah practices gratitude, but she seems about a million steps away from me. Business women who are 5 to 10 steps ahead of me are easier to identify with, and I can clearly see that practicing gratitude helps them by making them stronger, more balanced women.
Although there are many gratitude routes you can try, I decided to go with journal writing. I didn’t buy a fancy gratitude journal; I just grabbed a notebook and started writing. I do this every single morning after my yoga flow and morning exercise. My standard sequence starts with my husband and my son, moves to my pets, then my home, and lastly my job that allows me to care for all of the above.
I always write that I am grateful and include several sentences as to why (a Marie Forleo natural if you will). Sometimes, I include very specific gratitude, like for my sisters, my parents, or my friends. And every so often, I express my gratitude for something going on in the world, like my gratitude for the United States having two women running for president or for the gift of life after a week of terror attacks across the world.
Amazingly enough, I have found this practice to make me much more appreciative of what I have and much more positive overall. I have more patience with my son, and I respect the sacrifices my husband makes for our family. This is much better than being an egocentric b word, and perhaps I have been known to be one of those…
The second approach I have taken to gratitude is using the app Grid Diary. I wanted to try some sort of app for gratitude, and I wasn’t sure which approach was going to work for me. In the end, I write in my gratitude notebook every morning and my Grid Diary every night. I get a notification at 9 pm that it’s Grid Diary time! It’s always excited for our time together! There are 8 questions in the grid, and you have the option to switch them out. I loved the standard questions so I use those. They are:
-What did I get done today?
-Did I exercise today?
-What did I do for my family today?
-Did I care for my friends today?
-How much money did I spend today?
-What am I grateful for?
-What are three good things about today?
-How can I make tomorrow better?
You can also track the day’s weather and how you felt about the day. You can add a few pictures if you like, but you have to upgrade to the paid version to have the ability to add more pictures. I sometimes add a picture of my son at the park, or a beautiful sunset I had the privilege of seeing. I find that it’s imperative that I take the time at night to write in my Grid Diary or I won’t remember everything by the next morning. Such is the memory of a new Mama.
Now, like all of these new practices I am trying out, do I really do this every single morning? No, I don’t. Some mornings, I fail. But I immediately feel the effects of that failure. I stress. I get grumpy. I get anxious. I am unnecessarily difficult. It’s better for me to be 5 minutes late to work and practice gratitude than to be a lesser version of me.
Do you have a gratitude practice? What do you do and how is it working for you?