Gratitude is the ultimate game changer. It is so much more than saying “thank you”. It is a daily practice with the power to alter our perspective and enhance our mood. It is a tool that you can access at any time to change your state of mind and reset your day. When you have a practice of gratitude, things will still go wrong. You will still have negative thoughts and reactions. The difference is that with gratitude, you have the ability to almost immediately gain control over those thoughts and reactions. There are some concrete ways to build a gratitude practice to begin your day with a positive mindset and to reset your day when things get away from you.
Gratitude as a Practice
- Pray – prayer to many is the ultimate form of gratitude. Prayer focuses us outside of ourselves and opens us up to give reverence and gratitude for all that we have.
- Meditate – meditation is a practice in and of itself. It can be as simple as sitting or lying and allowing your mind to still by listening to the rhythm of your breath. There are many apps that you can download or articles that you can read to begin or enhance a meditation practice.
- Begin your day by thinking of or writing 5 things that for which you are grateful. As simple as this sounds, it is a powerful mental reset. If you start your day with gratitude, it sets the tone for the rest of your day and prepares you to deal with obstacles as they arise. If you recognize that you are frustrated, angry, or experiencing any difficult emotion, start to think of what you are grateful for or pull out your gratitude journal and read what you have previously written. As your thoughts move from the challenge at hand to what you are grateful for, you will feel a change. Your circumstance may not change, but your disposition will.
- Say “thank you”. Let someone know how much they are appreciated. You will uplift someone, and their energy can be contagious. Once again, your focus has been diverted from the challenge that you are facing giving you a temporary mental reprieve.
The idea is not to ignore your issues, but to prepare you to better manage them. We are not productive when we are hyper focused on what has gone wrong. In that mindset, our creativity is stifled, and it is difficult to come to solutions. The strategies above will give you the mental break that you need to think so that you can make the necessary adjustments to meet the challenge head on. The reset moves you from being stuck to regaining focus, a sense of direction, and the ability to move forward.
Gratitude in the Midst of the Storm
When things are going wrong, it can be extremely difficult to feel gratitude. That is understandable and why it is called a practice. Like any other skill, we have to work at it. My original intent was to list some of the more difficult storms that we face, but as I started to write them, I saw a common thread: loss. I thought of the loss of a loved one, a marriage, a job. Loss came up over and over again. We face physical and emotional loss. Disappointment is the loss of an expected outcome. So, the storm is loss in one of its many forms and our challenge is to utilize gratitude as one of the tools to heal, reset, and find a new normal. Here are a few suggestions to help you get there:
- Look for the lesson: In any storm, there is a lesson. What did you learn from the situation? The lesson was likely a difficult one but be grateful for it. Take the time to process and integrate the lesson. Let the experience inform you and help you as you move forward.
- Look for the opportunity: What new opportunities exist because of the storm? We are less likely to see opportunity when we are comfortable. After the initial shock of the storm, evaluate what’s different. Are there things that you wanted to do that you weren’t able to do prior to the storm? Storms, as destructive as they can be, sometimes clear a path. What can you see now that was previously blocked from view?
- Look inward: Are you drawn to something or someone? Are you remembering a dream long packed away? Find some alone time and just think. Notice what comes up when you are alone with your thoughts. Your next move may become clear.
It is impossible to live a life without challenges. However, it is possible to overcome them. My wish is for you to have a life that is smooth sailing, and that when the storms of life rise, you have what you need to sustain it.