Practicing gratitude is exactly that—a practice. As simple as it may seem to be thankful, it usually takes a conscious effort and intention to make it a daily occurrence. And it is valuable to make it a practice! Grateful people are happier and healthier—physically, mentally, and emotionally, too.
But as with most things healthy, it’s all too easy to forget what makes us feel good and fall into harmful patterns that feel more comfortable at the time. Grumbling and complaining may feel more natural—especially when life is hard or overwhelming—but it’s not ultimately helpful and it certainly doesn’t make you feel any better. As Thanksgiving approaches, we’re challenging you (and ourselves!) to make gratitude practice a daily to-do!
These are a few of our favorite ways to practically apply gratitude to everyday life:
Add Gratitude to Your Morning Routine
Sure, it’s easy to feel grateful some of the time—when things are going well or when we’re surrounded by family and friends at Thanksgiving dinner. But how can you make it a practice every single day? Start by making it part of your daily routine!
You may or may not have one of the oft-revered about morning routines that include meditation, green juice, a workout, and inbox zero—but even if you don’t, you have a routine regardless: every morning you wake up, brush your teeth, take a shower, get dressed, have some breakfast, and whatever else it takes to get you prepared for your day. Just add gratitude to the mix! In between brushing your teeth and making breakfast, sit down with your coffee (or green juice!) and make a list of what you’re grateful for. It could be one thing, it could be five, or you could list things until you run out of space. Just make it routine by adding it to the morning routine that already exists!
Make Gratitude a Habit
Of course, if you add being grateful to your morning routine, it’ll quickly become a habit—but what about when you’re just getting started? What about when you forget to write a few things you’re grateful for down one day and you fall off track? Eventually, being grateful will become a habit, but it can be tough in those early days before it becomes automatic.
Research says it takes at least 21 days to solidify a new habit, so give yourself at least that much time to get used to your new routine. Start by giving yourself a cue and a reward for your gratitude habit: your cue might be hearing your alarm clock go off and reaching for the gratitude journal on your bedside table. And dark chocolate at the end of your day serves well as a reward!
Experiment with it and find the cues and rewards that work best for you. Another easy way to start? Join our November Gratitude Challenge! For 21 days leading up to Thanksgiving (starting 11/2/17), practice being grateful each day. Download our free gratitude challenge printable to track your daily gratitude entries. We’ll be sharing inspiration for the challenge each day over on Instagram. Follow along!
Feel Gratitude in the Present
Here’s the thing: it’s a lot easier to feel grateful when you’re connected to how life truly is—in other words, when you’re connected to the present moment. Practice taking small pauses throughout your day to focus on what’s really happening, where you really are—and, well, how good you really have it. If it helps, set timers on your phone to go off periodically throughout your day, with reminders to stop, breathe, and be grateful for one thing in that moment.
And trust us, we get it—life can feel overwhelming, scary, and impossible sometimes. But that’s exactly why it’s so important to pause and get present; to see our lives exactly as they are without all of the “doom and gloom” scenarios our minds like to cook up. When you’re present to what really is in your life, you’re a lot more likely to recognize everything you have to be grateful for.
Find New Things to Feel Grateful For
While it’s wonderful to feel grateful for your family or your job or your friends every day, it can start to feel a little monotonous if you write those down every day. Yes, we know we said to make gratitude a routine, but in order for your practice to have impact (and stay interesting for you!), you need to mix it up.
Instead of listing the same things you’re grateful for every day, try to find new people, experiences, things, or activities for which you can give thanks! The point of being grateful every day is to shift your focus from one that sees much of what is wrong with the world and your life, to one that is focused on what is good—and while your family and friends and work are certainly some of those good things, they’re not the only ones! Stretch yourself to see all that is good in your life every single day. We promise you there’s more than enough to fill a gratitude journal—and then some!
Keep It Creative
And speaking of mixing up your routine, stay creative with the ways you practice gratitude daily, too. If keeping a gratitude journal is starting to bore you, try something else! You might create a Pinterest board where you can pin photos of things you’re grateful for or start a daily gratitude accountability text to a close friend who also wants to practice being more grateful. You could write and send a letter to someone you’re thankful for (who wouldn’t be grateful to receive some positive snail mail?!) or make it a daily family practice to share something you’re thankful for every evening around the dinner table.
Start with what sounds fun now and be flexible about what your practice looks like going forward! Feeling gratitude should be a fun, positive experience—make sure you don’t feel tied to a routine that makes you want to drop the habit.
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In addition to our gratitude challenge printable for this month, you’ll also find a space for recording your gratitude on the daily planning pages of the Flagship Day Designer. Try it for FREE here! Let’s come together to make gratitude a practice leading up to Thanksgiving, and all year long.