I want to start with a video clip today. It does mention God, but you can replace it with nature or higher power – whatever works for you.

After watching the video, ask yourself: Are you asking for gratitude – or are you looking for opportunities to be grateful? Have you ever found yourself saying ‘Of course I’m grateful, but….”? I admit, I’ve said it.  By only acknowledging my gratitude in passing, I was missing the opportunity to actually sit with those feelings and acknowledge how much I was appreciated, or how much I appreciation I felt. And those are such amazing feelings- why would I give up that opportunity? Gratitude, like patience, courage, and love require practice. It’s hard to say ‘I’m grateful’ once and get the full benefits. Benefits including decreased symptoms of anxiety, lower rates of stress and depression, increased resilience and a bolstered self-esteem. Not to mention it releases dopamine and serotonin those chemicals that make us feel so good. Could you look for opportunities to be grateful in passing? What would that look like? A car accident where no one was hurt?  A tree crashing through your roof when no one was home? Do we need such drastic situations to remind us of our blessings? To remind us to be thankful? I came to this realization a few years back when I was going through a hard time. I was overworked, stressed, sick with walking pneumonia and my dad was fighting cancer on the other side of the world. I was struggling at work and at home and I needed to find the silver lining, a more positive outlook – honestly, anything to help me keep going. I started a gratitude journal. I found a cute little notebook and wrote down 3 things I was grateful for every night before bed. I committed to it for a year. Some days I was grateful for an easy bedtime with the kids or a delicious lunch, a good talk with a friend or even seeing a beautiful butterfly on a walk. Interestingly through practice I learned that the more specific I could be, the better. If I included the ‘why’ these 3 things were important, it amplified those good feelings. Research says reflecting on moments helps you to savor them, making it more intense, and therefore more memorable and better learned- which is the beginning to retraining our brains. So my list started to look like:
  • Today I was grateful for an easy bedtime because I felt like I could connect with son rather than being the night-time dictator.
  • Today my delicious lunch nourished me and it was exactly what I needed. And I’m grateful to my husband for making it!
  • I’m grateful for that butterfly on my walk today because it reminded of how generous nature is with her beauty.
And you know what? This gratitude practice worked. My worries and issues didn’t feel as heavy anymore. It’s not that they disappeared, but by looking for the opportunities to be grateful and focusing on those moments of beauty or joy or ease I was able to reframe my experiences. Do you have a gratitude practice? There are many ways to practice gratitude.
  • A gratitude jar, where you write something you are grateful for and add it to the jar every day,
  • A rock that you keep in your pocket and every time you touch it, think of something you are grateful for,
  • A gratitude box with thoughts for loved ones,
  • Walking can be a gratitude practice, if paired with reflection
  • Or a gratitude journal, like me.
But what if you are a super stars and you already have gratitude practices. Are you thinking, I’ve got this, what’s next? It’s fantastic to have your own practice and develop your own sense of gratitude, but are you sharing it with others? Wouldn’t it be great to spread good feelings and joy, like the feelings you get from your own gratitude experiences? Expressing gratitude strengthens relationships – but it’s more than that. When someone tells you they appreciate you – how do you feel? It feels amazing, right? What about making others feel that way? Let’s  spread those good feelings! Can you imagine what would happen if you were specific in your gratitude to those in your life on a regular basis? What if you shared your gratitude with 2 people, and they in turn shared their gratitude with 2 people and those people shared it with 2 people, and on and on. How much happiness could we grow? Maybe this video will tell us:

Can you imagine how many more opportunities for gratitude there will be if we make a practice of sharing our gratefulness with others on top of our own practice? Where would you, your family, your company, the world even, go from there? From a place of gratitude and joy?

As we look for opportunities to be grateful, practice being grateful and share that gratitude with others, I want to share one last story, close to my heart. My family with my 2 little ones, 5 and 6.5, started a tradition about 2 years ago of answering the prompt at dinner “today I am grateful for _____”. We try to do it few days a week, and it’s been really sweet to see my kids thankfulness grow from being grateful for the dinner we were eating, to visiting grandparents, and now for meaningful moments in their days. It’s offered us insight to their minds and we get to ask questions to help them reflect. And because of these conversations, we started volunteering together by planting trees and picking up trash as a family, as another way to share and spread happiness to those around us.

There is no one way to have a gratitude practice and express your appreciation. Explore these tools (or others!) to find what works for you. And keep on embracing and sharing those good feelings of gratitude!