Explore

gratitude

mind

How to practice gratitude

May 6, 2019
how to practice gratitude

Gratitude practice changed my life

I’ve previously about how gratitude practice changed my life. It turned me from perpetually being a ‘grey sky thinker’ to seeing the positives in life.

I had gone through life feeling like the odds were stacked against me. 

Good fortune and luck were things that happened to other people. I was great at seeing the negatives in any situation which helped back up my theory (let’s face it, none of us like to be wrong…). My train was 2 minutes late: this always happen to me. Didn’t get the call for a job interview: that’s just typical. 

In pretty much any situation, I found it easy to dissect what was wrong about it, I just struggled with thinking what was right.

I first learnt about gratitude after reading the Secret and falling down a Rhonda Byrne / self-help book rabbit hole. I decided to give it a whirl for a few weeks and here I am 7 years later with my cup still half full.

For me, the greatest change has been to stop sweating the small stuff and to notice the positives more. I feel happy when I’m running late and my train is equally late too. I look for opportunities in situations, rather than being a naysayer and I’m much more in control of my feelings instead of being led by them. 

However, the main benefit is, I feel much happier overall.

Now, that’s not to say I find positives in every situation. When my Dad died very suddenly, I can’t say I found anything to feel particularly grateful about. I could barely function. However, a few years on, I can see the experience has changed me for the better. I have a deeper level of empathy and understanding towards other people, which just didn’t exist before. Obviously, I wish my Dad dying had never happened – but I guess as it did, I’m grateful I learnt something along the way.

What is a gratitude practice?

Gratitude practice involves regularly paying attention to the good around us, such as being around nature, meeting friends and time spent with family. 

It’s looking out for those small moments and feeling grateful for them. The cheery smile from a stranger or enjoying a really nice meal. 

Happiness is a feeling we can cultivate. So the more regularly we practice feeling grateful, the more aware we become of the good around us and the happier we feel.

Most of us take our lives for granted (a roof over our head, regular access to food, good health) and we forget to recognise it. Gratitude helps us remember this and all the other positives in life.

The science behind gratitude

There is a lot of science behind practising gratitude and the benefits it brings to both our physical and mental wellbeing. Researchers have found it helps with sleep, moods and overall physical health. 

There is also evidence that it retrains our neural pathways in the brain. Our neural pathways carry messages to and from the brain and are created by learnt behaviour so most of the time we don’t know we’re doing it. They’re not just physical responses, but emotional and behavioural too. 

Think about when you cross the road. In my case, I’m generally listening to music or a podcast and am pretty much in a world of my own. However, I still know to press the button and wait for the green man before I cross. I’m not diving into the road because I’ve done this task so many times my brain knows what to do.

Ever felt anxious when you know you’re going to have to navigate a tricky conversation? That’s because your brain knows this might result in conflict and so has sent that message to the brain and your emotions are heightened.

In the same way, if you’re always noticing negative events and situations, then your brain starts will send messages as soon as these things take place so you’re more aware of them. 

By focusing on feeling grateful when good things happen, then your neural pathways will send happier messages and you’ll be more aware of the positives in life instead. 

4 ways to practice gratitude

Here are 4 ways, I practice gratitude.

1. I follow a process I learnt by reading ‘the Magic’ and keep a gratitude journal where I write out 10 things I feel grateful for and the reasons why. I then read it back and say ‘thank you’ 3 times.

2. I use an App called Gratitude Plus. This sets a daily reminder, which prompts me to fill it in. This is great for being on the go and I use it on my commute.

3. I try to pause throughout the day and feel grateful for small moments. 

4. I reflect on the day before I go to sleep and pick out things that happened which I feel grateful for. It takes seconds and is a really nice way to end the day.

Please note, I’ve included links to Amazon for books that I’ve read. I’m not not suggesting you use this store over another – it’s just to be helpful. 

mind

Why I practice gratitude

April 11, 2018
why I practice gratitude

A few years ago, I realised I was stuck in a bit of rut. I tended to focus on the negative and had a blamey attitude. I got frustrated easily and often felt like the world was conspiring against me. Other people just seemed to fall into new opportunities, where as I was always trying to dig myself out of a hole… I knew I need to make some changes so I started to explore new ways of thinking and living. One of those ideas included a gratitude practice.

A friend introduced me to the Secret. I’m going to be honest, some bits I liked and some I found overly materialistic so I completely get that it’s not for everyone. However, the bit that stuck was about developing a gratitude practice. I decided to keep a gratitude diary and each morning wrote down ten things that made me happy and the reasons why. I then read my list out loud.

My gratitude practice completely changed how I see the world.

How my gratitude practice changed my life for the better

I let go of feeling frustrated.

If my train was delayed, I could see it was such a tiny thing to feel annoyed about and in the grand scheme of things, it just didn’t matter. I could apologise if I was late and people would understand.

I saw my life as a full picture.

Yes, I may have had bad things happen but I also have so much happening which is positive too. It helped me gain a more balanced viewpoint.

I felt more in control of my own life.

I felt less as though events were conspiring against me and more optimistic. I now realise I have responsibility for my thought processes.

Small things made me smile.

A friendly chat with a stranger or an offer of help from a colleague lifted my spirits and brought me joy. I noticed what was right in front of me.

It felt like the world was more on my side.

I could be running late and my train would be magically delayed by just the right amount of time for me to step straight on. It felt like life was in harmony.

I started to count my blessings.

I noticed how much I have and how lucky I am.

And as a result, I’m much happier.

mind

Bad attitude with gratitude (and how to get your gratitude groove back on)

January 4, 2018

My bad attitude with gratitude

A few years ago, I was the queen of gratitude practice. I kept a daily gratitude diary; starting every day writing the top ten things I felt grateful for that morning and the reasons why. It changed my thinking completely. I stopped caring about the small things and focused on all the great things around me. I felt happier, my relationships were better and I was more energised. Life started to feel easier and I noticed how many more good things came my way. However, life got busy, I started to lose momentum and my practice slipped. For a long time, I’ve been trying to get back into it and finding it challenging. I always found a hundred excuses to not keep it going. I didn’t have enough time, I was tired, I didn’t have a pen… In short, I started to get a bad attitude with gratitude.

How to get back into the gratitude groove

Now, the thing is with gratitude is it’s meant to be joyful. It’s supposed to be about recognising the good moments of life. A cuddle from my boy. Yes please. The train that’s running late in sync with us being late to the station. Win. Getting a free cup of coffee. Thank you. But, if you start to feel that you’re doing your gratitudes a bit begrudgingly because you’re in a hurry, then it kind of loses its impact.

So how do you get your gratitude groove back on?

Gratitude Apps

The good thing about living in a digital age is there’s an App for pretty much everything including gratitude. This means you can do your gratitude practice on public transport, or where ever you are. Happyfeed is just one of many Apps available.

You can also keep it lo-fi and just use the notes in your phone too.

Say your gratitudes out loud

Personally, I get a lot from writing my gratitudes down, which stands to reason given that I’m a writer. I find it helps me reflect much more. However, if you’re a verbal person, then saying your gratitudes out loud could have a similar impact. It’s also a lot quicker.

Oprah’s super soul gratitude practice tip

I still feel starting the day writing my gratitude diary works well for me because it sets my mood for the day. However, I feel I need to take it one step further. I picked up a great tip from Oprah’s Super Soul podcast which is to make sure you pause and show gratitude at least a few times throughout the day. It doesn’t matter where you are – just take a moment to reflect.

This makes complete sense to me. My gratitude practice needs to develop from a list written hurriedly on a commuter train to being part of who I am. At least three times a day, I’m going to stop what I’m doing, be in the moment and reflect on all I have to feel grateful for.

%d bloggers like this: