Cultivating a Gratitude Practice
In a mindful journaling workshop I hosted, journaling expert and writer, Pam McFarland, prompted us to write for 10 minutes about a “captured moment” – a journaling technique for exploring an experience in depth. We were instructed to dwell on a pleasant memory.
My mind meandered through a string of early, pleasant childhood memories, starting with my older brother weaning me off the training wheels of my bike. Somehow the memories ended with the day my brother got bit by our neighbor’s German Shepard that got loose. After he got bit on the leg, my brother had the presence to call a friend and ask him to meet me at my elementary school when it let out. His friend walked me home a different way so I would be unlikely to cross paths with the dog. Together they ensured that I avoid a very painful disaster. Sweet big brother and family friend. Needless to say, I was feeling a heart full of love and gratitude for my brother after that exercise.
“Gratitude is a currency that we can mint for ourselves,
and spend without fear of bankruptcy.”
Fred De Witt Van Amburgh
Dwelling on those memories changed my whole frame of mind that day. Research has shown that both the practices of gratitude and savoring the positive moments have many health benefits, emotional and otherwise. Leading gratitude researcher Robert Emmons, Ph.D., notes that gratitude can serve as a useful coping mechanism in difficult times as well.
Think about how you might add gratitude even more in your life. It may be gratitude for the way people close to you show their love or gratitude for your job (or at least the paycheck ᚑ). Life can be really difficult and there may be times when you are asking too much of yourself to focus on the positive details. Understand that being grateful doesn’t mean, by any stretch, running away from reality and ignoring the truth of the moment. It could, however, lead to acknowledging the strength and skills that have helped you endure difficult life circumstances or bring to the foreground what has helped you have that strength. That’s an important form of gratitude as well.
Gratitude Practice Ideas
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Maintain a daily gratitude journal.
- Incorporate a prayer of gratitude into your prayers of worship and/or a gratitude mantra as part of your meditation practice.
- Decide that you are going to notice and reflect on at least three things to be grateful for, with a focus on the small things – a flower, a kind word from a neighbor or colleague, a smile from a stranger, the sun shining, the rain helping the flowers in your front yard to grow, the young person who assists you with carrying your grocery bags to the car. If you find this difficult to do on a daily basis, start with a few times a week and then build the practice to every day.
“Some people grumble that Roses have thorns;
I am grateful that thorns have Roses.”
- Integrate repetitive messages of gratitude throughout your day, for instance, by creating frequently used computer passwords that include the first letters of a phrase of gratitude. So, the letters in IAGFMB@7, for instance, could be used to stand for “I am grateful for my brother”.
- Make it an intentional practice to express gratitude, either by word or deed, to at least one person every day. Include an expression of gratitude towards yourself on a regular basis as part of that practice; and,
- Accept and acknowledge others’ expressions of gratitude to you.
You may find that practicing gratitude heightens the pleasure of good moments and softens the tough moments of life. To help cultivate your own gratitude practice, download this FREE Gratitude Guide & Journal Prompts HERE.