How is it November already?! Where does the time go? This month, I thought I’d do a series of posts about gratitude. After all, Thanksgiving is just around the corner! It’s also the 4 year anniversary of my daily Gratitude Lists, so what better topic to discuss than Gratitude!
You heard that right, I’ve been doing a daily gratitude list for almost four years. Today makes 1,455 gratitude lists and counting. Doris Day said, “Gratitude is riches” and I can attest to that fact, not by some intellectual principal, but because I have lived it. On November 7th, 2019, I was going through some major changes in my life and my career. Quickbooks Connect had just wrapped up and I was thinking about all of the inspiring things that had just transpired over the past few days. I decided to start keeping a journal, to record my thoughts and memories each night. As a part of that journal, I decided to write out a gratitude list, a very simple list of things that I was grateful for each day. This practice has changed my life and I can’t wait to tell you how.
What is Gratitude?
Gratitude is a powerful and positive emotion, often described as the feeling of thankfulness and appreciation for the good things in one's life. It involves recognizing and acknowledging the positive aspects, experiences, and people that bring joy and satisfaction. Gratitude can range from simple daily pleasures to significant life achievements. It can involve acknowledging the kindness and support of others and feeling thankful for the opportunities and experiences we encounter. Practicing gratitude can have numerous benefits for one's mental, emotional, and even physical well-being.
Benefits of Gratitude
- Improved Mental Health: Research suggests that practicing gratitude can reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. Sometimes we are prone to focus on what we lack in our life, the things that are wrong with a situation, the things we aren’t getting or achieving in our lives. Shifting the focus to things we can be grateful for can have a positive effect on our overall mental health.
- Enhanced Emotional Well-being: Gratitude can lead to increased positive emotions and greater life satisfaction. Life is hard. There’s really no arguing that fact. We all, without exception, go through difficult times. It’s easy to get caught up in the bad hand that we may have been dealt. However, there is always a silver lining. Looking for the positives in life, no matter how small they may be at a given time, can distract from obsessing over the negatives and lead to overall better emotional health.
- Better Relationships: Expressing gratitude can strengthen relationships by making others feel appreciated and valued. Say thank you. A lot. Expressing appreciation and gratitude for the people in your life will strengthen the bond you have with them. Practicing this in all of your relationships will help to fortify them and foster a sense of trust and mutual respect. Remember to express gratitude in your close and intimate relationships as well. Sometimes we forget to thank our spouse, children, even our parents for kindnesses they show. It goes a long way to remember them and show appreciation for them.
- Increased Resilience: Grateful individuals tend to be more resilient in the face of challenges. They can better cope with adversity. If there’s one thing we’ve learned over the past few years, it’s that resiliency is not an overrated quality to have. By practicing gratitude, we improve our ability to remain optimistic even when things aren’t going the way we hoped they would. In the face of adversity, we must maintain optimism in order to keep our head up and remain open to opportunities. A daily gratitude practice increases our ability to adapt to our circumstances and remain in a mental mindset to push through our challenges.
- Physical Health Benefits: Some studies suggest that practicing gratitude can lead to better physical health, such as improved sleep and reduced stress. Stress is an absolute killer. It’s bad for your body in a multitude of different ways, and can cause low energy, headaches, insomnia, frequent colds or infections, digestion issues, loss of sexual desire/ability, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and heart rate, the list goes on and on. Practicing daily gratitude can help reduce the effects of stress and have a positive effect on our physical health.
How To Practice Gratitude
- Keep a Gratitude Journal: Regularly write down things you're grateful for. It can be daily or weekly, although I’ve had more success doing it as a daily ritual. Reflect on both big and small blessings in your life. Every night, before I go to bed, I take 5-10 minutes to journal about my day and write my gratitude list. When things have been rough that day, I might be grateful for very basic things, like “My bed is really comfortable” or “I got to watch my favorite tv show tonight” or “I make enough money to meet my needs.” You don’t have to have a million dollars in the bank or a brand new Ferrari in the garage to find gratitude.
- Express Thanks: Don't hesitate to say "thank you" to people who have helped or supported you. Showing appreciation strengthens relationships. It’s easy to fall into patterns with people we deal with everyday, our loved ones, our employees, etc; and start to expect things from them. Keep in mind, they like to feel appreciated. Even if its just an employee who’s doing the basic job you have hired them for. You might feel like you don’t need to thank them for their work, isn’t a paycheck enough thanks? While it’s not mandatory to thank them, doing so will make them feel appreciated and strengthen the bond you have with them. Maybe it won’t inspire them to go above and beyond, but it doesn’t cost you anything either!
- Mindfulness and Meditation: Incorporate mindfulness and meditation practices to focus on the present moment and appreciate the beauty of life. Now, before you panic and run out of the room screaming, let me first say this: there is no wrong way to meditate! Just get started. Mindfulness and meditation are two of the most valuable tools at my disposal to keep me grounded in the moment. I have a daily meditation practice that I aspire to, but I can assure you, I don’t do it perfectly. I’m not a monk, I’m a busy ass woman who runs my own business and has a million things going on each day. Which reminds me, I need to get back to my daily meditation practice! Anyway, I have a meditation practice that works for me. It has evolved over time. I encourage you to explore different types of meditation and find a practice that works for you. I recommend the Calm app for beginners. It’s easy to use and will help you get started.
- Positive Affirmations: Use positive affirmations to remind yourself of the things you're grateful for. This reinforces positive thinking. I don’t know about you, but I am by far my harshest critic. If someone else said some of the things about me that I say about myself, I’d be in a fist fight with that individual. And yet, I will get into an internal monologue loop of outright abusive self hatred that can spiral for days. This. Is. Not. Healthy. And it’s not productive, either. I have found that positive affirmations help to stop that loop. This practice has always felt so corny to me, so I started to picture in my mind, the little girl version of Erica. She’s the one I talk to, she’s the one I affirm, she’s the one I protect and forgive and support and lift up. It feels a lot less corny than standing in the mirror saying, “and dog-gone it, people like me!” But again, find a method that works for you and give it a try. If you do it consistently everyday and at the end of a month, you feel worse about yourself, you can stop.
- Acts of Kindness: Engage in acts of kindness towards others. Helping someone else can enhance your sense of gratitude. When I’m feeling really sorry for myself (no one throws a pity party like I can!) or when I’m in a lot of fear about something that may or may not transpire, I can very easily lose sight of gratitude. One of the fastest ways to get out of my own head, and out of my own way, is to be of service to others. The key to this is to perform these acts of kindness without any expectation of returned kindness or favors, without any expectation of acknowledgment or accolades. If I keep score of my kindness, holding onto it so that it can be cashed in at a later date, I have completely missed the point of this exercise. Similarly, if I am being of service so that I gain some form of recognition for that service, that is a self-serving proposition and is not truly an act of kindness. I promise you will be disappointed and you will not find your own gratitude in the end.
Gratitude has had such a huge impact on my life, my relationships, my business. Four years into this daily practice and I cannot imagine where my life would be without it. To say I’m grateful for gratitude is an understatement. It’s a daily reminder that even in the midst of life’s complexities and challenges, there is always something to be thankful for. Gratitude isn’t just a choice, it’s a celebration of life itself. Each day, each moment, offers a new opportunity to discover gratitude. So, here’s to more days filled with thankfulness and to the countless blessings we often overlook. Let’s savor the beauty in the ordinary and embrace the richness of gratitude in our hearts.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as financial advice. Consult with a qualified professional for personalized guidance tailored to your specific situation.