Highlights for The Power of Gratitude
- How this got started (0:15)
- Seeking out the good (1:00)
- How to turn the tide of anxiety (4:20)
- Three ways to bring more gratitude into your life (6:10)
The Power of Gratitude
Many years ago, someone gave me a Gratitude Journal. At first, I didn’t fully understand what it was, the purpose of it, or how to use it, but I was open to giving it a try.
Little did I know that my life was about to implode and that this gratitude practice would help me more than I could have ever imagined.
How This Got Started
So, I kept the journal on my nightstand, and every night before I went to bed, I picked it up and wrote down 5 things I was grateful for.
They couldn’t be the same things every day. Each day, I had to find 5 unique things to be thankful for – big things, small things, anything.
This gratitude practice helped me through one of the darkest times of my life: the passing of my beloved grandmother and the super-dysfunctional family aftermath that followed.
When I crawled into bed each night, that journal was right there on my nightstand. Sometimes I didn’t want to, but I would eventually fill out my daily five.
I can see now that focusing on positive things before bed helped me put all of the day’s bullshit into perspective—
I had a safe place to live…
I had delicious food to eat…
I had friends and non-dysfunctional family members to help me through the devastation.
Also, I could see the good things, no matter how small, and take a moment to lift my head out of the muck and appreciate them, whether that was the kindness of a stranger or the beauty of the snow.
It didn’t take away the pain of losing one of the most important people in my life, but it helped me to get out of my head and see the good things in everyday life and not just the bad things that were happening around me at the time.
At that point, when I was so low and sad and devastated by the shock and all the fighting that happened afterward, I needed this simple gratitude practice to keep me from being weighed down by all the negativity, and it wasn’t until later that I realized how much I needed it.
When you’re sad or hurting, there are still beautiful things all around, but it can take a conscious effort to see them.
And it’s not a one-or-the-other thing … you can do both. You can grieve and be sad and still appreciate the beauty of the world or the laughter of a child.
Seeking Out the Good
Making a point of seeking out good things can change you.
Over the years, my gratitude practice has taken a more informal approach. I no longer have the journal next to my bed, but I stop during the day and marvel at the world around me. I even find gratitude during negative situations or when things go wrong.
Like the time my car broke down and left me stranded, and my mind immediately went to, “Wow, I’m glad AAA will come to get me.” Later, I was grateful I had the money to fix it, and that it could be fixed the next morning.
So, yes, even when I’m stuck on the side of the road with a cracked radiator, I can find gratitude!
And there are other things, especially around this time of year—
The stillness or the rustling of the leaves and their ever-changing color…
The temperatures dancing downward in my area…
The joy of children’s laughter and their excitement at the new things happening around them…
The work that I do every day to help people live happier lives…
It’s ALL amazing.
Gratitude helps me to remember to feel the amazingness that surrounds me.
How to Turn the Tide of Anxiety
And gratitude will cut through stress and anxiety like a hot knife through butter … it stops them in their tracks. In fact, gratitude can help you physically, too.
Gratitude has been shown to reduce aches and pains as well as reduce stress and anxiety. Did you know that your brain can’t process anxiety and gratitude at the same time?
(I’m not a brain scientist, so don’t email me about this, I just know it works!)
I learned in coach training that gratitude and anxiety are processed in two different parts of the brain, and your brain can’t do both at the same time.
So, when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, if you can list 3 things that you’re grateful for, you’ll shift out of your anxiety – it works every time.
I remind my husband to do this all the time, and he gets super-pissed. But he actually flipped the script on me a couple of months ago 😊 He did it to me, and I realized why he gets so irritated … it’s hard!
It’s hard to change direction when you’re in anxiety or in a very stressful mindspace. Somebody tells you to list three things you’re grateful for, and all you want to do is throat punch them!
(Which isn’t going to help your stress, just saying…)
Anyway, at first, I couldn’t think of three things to be grateful for. It probably took me five minutes! Once I finally got the three things, I realized that while I was anxious, I couldn’t have come up with three things from my entire LIFE to be grateful for.
I mean, I was really drawing a blank. It took long minutes to think of anything to be grateful for. Later on, I realized that the time it took was my brain switching over from one side to the other – from where anxiety lives to where gratitude comes from.
And during that time, I was speechless. My husband kept saying, “Give me one,” and I was like, “Uhhh…” I said something, but I don’t even know what … I may have said something like, “The grass is green.”
But after my mind had redirected energy from that place of anxiety to a place of gratitude, I could have easily named 10 things!
Even more amazing was that I was no longer anxious. I was no longer stressed out … and I didn’t even want to slap my husband for pulling out my gratitude like I always do to him 😊
This is really an amazing thing, but sometimes you can’t do it by yourself. Sometimes you need somebody to help you get out of that anxious space … I mean, I really couldn’t think of three things, at first.
Whether or not you have someone to help, gratitude is a magical tool to pull out of your toolkit when you’re feeling sad or lonely, or when you’re feeling anxious or stressed or mad or whatever.
This is not a replacement for the bad stuff … the bad stuff is still happening. But if you can pull out what is going well in spite of the rest, it’s a way to lift you out of the sadness or any other painful emotion, even if for just a little bit.
So, how can you incorporate more gratitude into your life?
Three Ways to Bring More Gratitude into Your Life
Journaling is one way. Each day, choose 3 to 5 unique things you are grateful for and write them down.
And your gratitude isn’t only for other people! Remember to put yourself on that list.
Be grateful for your gorgeous body as it is today. Think of all the amazing things it does for you now – breathing, seeing the world, carrying you everywhere, arms to hug your loved ones. Our body does so much for us, but we rarely think to appreciate it.
Sit outside in nature – in a “sit spot,” as my friend Michael Trotta calls it – where you go to the same spot every day, about the same time if you can, and just be.
You don’t have to think of anything or make your grocery list. You can meditate if you want, or you can just be still and breathe in nature.
Start small! Start with 5 minutes and work your way up to 20 minutes, and just be in that spot. Choose a spot where you can sit in all seasons, or remember to take an umbrella.
Notice how a few minutes of quiet time in your special spot changes what goes on in your world.
Send your love
Send gratitude to others. This is one of my favorites!
Send someone a card out of the blue to say Thank You for their efforts, or send a text saying that you miss them, or send an email saying how much you love and appreciate them.
It will feel good to you, and I guarantee it will brighten their day, too.
So, go start practicing gratitude today!
(You can thank me later 😊)
Until next time,