After years of hit-or-miss gratitude practices, I decided to really commit to daily practices of gratitude. I discovered that it does make a difference! Here is my experience, what I learned from it, tips for making it work, and ways you can begin your own practice.
The Gratitude Practice That Changed My Life
To be honest, I hesitated to even explore the idea of writing about gratitude. It almost seems like a cliché in today’s self-improvement world. Everyone recommends it because it just makes so much sense. I believe in it and I practice it. But…
What does it actually do?
Does it make a difference?
And how could I possibly demonstrate that?
I decided that the only way to go was to be a little more extreme. To accomplish that, I decided on three different acts of gratitude that I would do daily for a month. To get started, I wrote down in detail how I was feeling and then at the end of the month I’d compare how I felt.
I have been doing gratitude practices for years, mostly journals and lists. But I decided I would up my game for one month and do 3 practices each and every day.
Surely that would catapult my life results in a way that I would be able to document?
What I Did to Make Gratitude a Life-Changing Habit
Here were my three practices
- I had a small journal and each day I would write about 5 things I was thankful for.
- I had my Happiness Jar. I had read about this from Elizabeth Gilbert. I’ve had this jar for over a year and a half! But for this month, I would write down the happiest thing that had happened each day.
- My third method was a picture board. Each day, I would print out a picture of something I was thankful for and tape it to the board.
I kept my commitment to my gratitude practices for the month. My picture board was my favorite since it was the most in-my-face of the three, I loved looking over my happy pictures. In fact, I continue getting pictures printed and out where I can see them because it still makes me happy.
Did This Gratitude Thing Work???
So when the new month rolled around, I realized that quite a few things were going really well in my life.
Like I said earlier, the results are subtle. Yet, I couldn’t deny that some really cool things were happening. The month before had been a rough month! I had started June feeling kind of hopeless and quite down. At the end of June, I was hopeful, creative, and productive. New relationships were forming. Projects were moving along. I had exceeded my goals for June. The final cool thing was that I had so much clarity and peace.
What I Loved About my Gratitude Practice
I was surprised daily by the things I had forgotten by evening! Even on days when I thought not much had happened, taking the time to think of five things, reminded me that good things had happened that day. Sometimes I was amazed at the good things that I had already forgotten by bedtime!
It is so easy to get caught up in our day-to-day living that we can overlook the blessings we received during the day.
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I started looking for and finding more good things during the day. When you know you are going to have to come up with five things you are thankful for; you start paying attention. When this part of your brain is activated, you start to see more good things!
I ended my day with powerful thoughts. Each night before bed, I was programming my mind to see my life as good and full of blessings. Taking the time daily to look back on your day brings those good things to mind and I have to think that’s a really great way to end the day. It allows you to go to bed, grateful and thankful.
Does practicing daily gratitude really do any good?
Can I say for sure it was my daily committed gratitude practices that brought about my peace of mind, creativity, good results, and productivity? Yes!
I had a total turn around in my mood, outlook, and productivity.
There was some kind of change in me over the course of this experiment and it was powerful. In fact, looking back, this was the when big change began to occur in my life.
Note: One year later, I consider this to be the beginning of an amazing part of my life.
To get you started here are a few tips.
Keep it simple. Pick one or two practices you can stick with daily for a month. Or do all three for a powerful practice. Most of us are super busy–you want this to be pleasant, not another chore.
Create a baseline. Write down a couple of paragraphs about what is going on in your life and how you feel. Date it. This is super important! Just as it’s easy to forget good things that happen daily, as you feel better, you will begin to forget how you were feeling at the beginning of the month.
Don’t judge yourself. Be grateful for what you want. It doesn’t have to be about anything in particular. It can be as mundane. Actually my lists were so mundane.
Include the small things. Most of life is made up of small experiences. If we only count the big exciting things, we miss out on so much we could be grateful for! And only looking for “big” stuff can create disappointment.
Keep going. It might seem, as it did with me, that nothing is happening and that it’s not making a difference. Ignore that feeling. You might be pleasantly surprised like I was at the end of the month.
Make your practice visible and convenient. To accomplish this, I kept all my things on the top of the dresser that faces the foot of my bed. There was no way I was going to not see or be reminded about my practice.
Here are Some Ways to Practice Gratitude
Gratitude Journal: Any notebook or journal will do. Mine was a pretty little journal that I got for free as a gift with a purchase. However, you can find reasonably priced journals too.
Happiness Jar: Find a big jar. Each day on a small piece of paper, write down the happiest thing that happened to you that day. Date, fold up, and add to the jar.
Gratitude Board: I had a large piece of foam board that I had used as a backdrop for photos. It seemed the perfect size to prop up on my dresser. Daily, I printed out a picture of happy moment and used double-sided tape to put them up. Sometimes, I would add notes with a sharpie or a cute drawing one of the girls had made for me.
Moving Forward with Gratitude
I’m never going to recommend anything that I haven’t tried myself and found some kind of value to it. In fact, by the middle of the month, I was sure that I wasn’t going to end up writing about gratitude because it seemed kind of boring and how do you even write about something with such subtle results?
However, the fact that I’m sitting here writing about it means that I think that is does have value. Gratitude is easy, takes little time, and doesn’t require spending any money. Be creative and find your own ways that are meaningful to you.
I’d love to hear from anyone that has done something like this or from anyone that tries it. Comment below so we can encourage each other.
The post about my gratitude practice marked the beginning of huge changes for me. I talk about some of those changes here.
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.
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