I tend to say thank you a lot. So much, that my husband used to always ask me “why are you thanking me for that?!”.
If I thanked him for doing the dishes, he’d say it was his responsibility too. If I thanked him for picking me up from the airport (we had a long distance relationship at first), he’d say “of course I’m going to pick you up!”. He was suggesting that I really shouldn’t be thanking him.
I understood what he was saying but I remained firm in my reasons for thanking him. To me, it doesn’t matter if it’s what he should be doing or if it was nothing out of the ordinary. If I’m grateful for something, I want to thank him.
Now he’s used to it and accepts my thanks readily.
Seeing the goodness in life is uplifting. I often think the littlest things are the sweetest because they happen more often than big things like a promotion, new house, new job or winning a competition. Little moments are sprinkled through your days. For example, I love finding the dishwasher has been emptied when I wake up, a hot cup of tea, the warmth of the sun on my face, a hug from my son, a thoughtful text from a friend or hearing something that makes me laugh.
Actively practicing gratitude invites more joy into your life.
Brene Brown discovered this through 12 years of research. In this time, every person she interviewed, who described themselves or their lives as joyful, actively practiced gratitude. She realised that it wasn’t joyful people who were more grateful, but grateful people who were more joyful.
The word “actively” is important here. It’s great to be thankful in general but actively practicing gratitude requires some repeated, deliberate ACTION.
It’s also valuable to note that there’s a difference between joy and happiness. Happiness is attached to external circumstances. It comes and goes based on what’s happening around you and to you. Joy is a deeper emotion that comes from within, when you find peace with yourself. You can be going through situations that make you unhappy but still experience joy.
Why practice gratitude?
Gratitude can be life changing.
Many research studies have now proven that gratitude provides plenty of benefits to our physical and mental wellbeing. Your mind and body are intricately connected. This means that whatever your mind focuses on greatly influences your health and physical state.
The benefits of gratitude, which are backed by research, include:
- Increased optimism and positivity
- Improved resilience
- More motivation
- Higher self-esteem
- Increased energy
- Improved immunity against illness
- Increased tolerance, empathy, kindness and compassion
- Improved decision making and productivity
- Better sleep
- More exercise
- Improved relationships
- Reduced blood pressure
- Less anger and aggression
- Reduced stress and depression
- Reduced loneliness
- Less envious of others.
That’s quite a lot, isn’t it!?
Motherhood isn’t straightforward. Life isn’t straightforward. Things aren’t perfect and we all experience problems, setbacks and negative emotions. Our brains are actually more inclined to look out for the things that aren’t going well!
We also get used to the things that make us happy and they don’t have as big an effect on our happiness over time. In other words, we take the things that make us happy for granted.
Gratitude can change this.
When you intentionally notice and reflect on the things you’re grateful for (the goodness in your life), you’ll start to see more things to be grateful for. Your focus will shift from the negatives to the positives. Over time, your brain will start looking for them automatically, because it becomes a habit.
What you feel grateful for is entirely personal. Big, small or something that seems insignificant to others. All are important and valuable.
That’s not to say that you should ignore or repress any negative emotions you’re experiencing. It’s actually healthy for you to acknowledge and let yourself feel those negative emotions. It helps you move through them. You can do this AND practice gratitude. By doing this, you’ll find a more balanced perspective, improved strength and confidence to get through your challenges and also avoid the potential longer term impacts of the negative emotions on your health.
How can I practice gratitude?
There are many ways to actively practice gratitude. Find an approach that appeals to you and best fits with your life, so it’ll be easier to make it stick! Here are some ideas to get you started.
1. Gratitude journal
This is a very popular option. All you need is a notebook, a pen and 5 minutes!
Each day, write down what you’re grateful for.
Be really specific. For example, instead of writing “I’m grateful for my husband”, write “I’m grateful for the way my husband listened to me when I was telling him about my challenges today”. This will help you find more things to be grateful for without having to repeat yourself each day (even though you’ll always be grateful for some things).
Most people recommend writing in your gratitude journal at night. But if this doesn’t work for you because you’re too exhausted or have other priorities at that time, then find a better time such as in the morning or during nap time.
2. Gratitude jar
Instead of using a journal, you could write what you’re grateful for on slips of paper and place them in a jar. I actually love the fact that you can decorate your jar and write on different types of paper to make it visually appealing. The jar itself is a visual reminder of your gratitude.
3. Gratitude prompts
Write the sentence “I am grateful for…” somewhere that you spend at least a few minutes each day. Preferably somewhere you can think, for example, in the kitchen, on the bathroom mirror, at your work desk, or even in the car. When you’re in that place, take a few minutes to reflect and bring to mind something that you’re grateful for that day. Say it out loud if you want!
4. Gratitude art
Do you prefer to draw rather than write? Create pictures to record the things you’re grateful for. It doesn’t have to be gallery worthy, just meaningful to you!
5. Gratitude board
Grab a pin-board, blackboard, whiteboard, or any other sort of board and add words, images, photos and quotes that represent the things you’re grateful for. You could even create a gratitude board as a family. Put it somewhere visible and add to it over time. Maybe you’d like to see it in your bedroom when you wake up, or before you go to bed. Or, if you’re doing it as a family, you might like to have it in the lounge room or kitchen, where it will be seen regularly. If you prefer a digital option, you could create a gratitude board on your phone or as the desktop background image on your computer.
6. Show gratitude to others
I love this one. Focus specifically on things that others have said or done that you’re grateful for. Each day, choose 1 thing and personally express your gratitude to that person. You could tell them, send them a card or note, or even a message or email, depending on the situation.
7. Gratitude conversations with your kids
Make gratitude a part of your routine with your kids. It’s a great way to teach them the habit of gratitude from a young age. My husband and I often ask my son what’s he’s grateful for that day, when we put him to bed. It’s so beautiful to hear what he comes up with. And he always wants to know what we’re grateful for too. Alternatively, you could all share 1 thing you’re grateful for as you have dinner, while you’re in the car or at any other time that you’re together.
8. Gratitude conversations with your partner
Choose a time that works for you both (morning, bedtime, etc) to tell each other what you’re grateful for. This doesn’t even have to be every day, if that’s logistically challenging. It could be a something you do to wrap up the week, or even every second day. You could combine this with a personal daily gratitude practice. Whatever works.
Another way to have a gratitude conversation with your partner is to focus on the things you’re grateful for about each other. It’s a great way to deepen your connection. Think about personal traits, things they’ve done, favourite memories, experiences, etc.
If you want to take this further, I love the idea of writing all these things down and giving them to your partner as a gift.
9. Gratitude app
There’s an app for everything these days, so of course, there’s an app for your gratitude practice! These apps provide prompts to help you start writing, allow you to add photos, plus sort and search your entries.
10. Gratitude meditation or prayers
If you find meditation or prayer valuable, then dedicate some of this time to gratitude. You can use gratitude affirmations during your prayer or meditation, or simply focus on specific things you are grateful for. There are lots of guided gratitude meditation videos on YouTube if you need an example to get started. The styles vary, so listen to a few to find one that you feel most comfortable with.
So there you have it, lovely mum. 10 ideas for actively practicing gratitude in your life so you can see the powerful benefits for yourself. Don’t feel you have to choose just one. You could combine a couple of these ideas as it suits you and your family. Or change it up and choose a different one every few months.
Why not get started right now.
- Choose the gratitude practice you want to commit to.
- Grab the resources you need and start today! (Or as soon as you get the things you need. If that’s the case, set a deadline for yourself so that you don’t end up never getting around to buying that pin-board).