I’ve always been a grateful person. Sometimes I get a hit with a random gratitude attack so overwhelming and powerful, my eyes well up. I’ve had it happen over everything from brief interactions to deep conversations to great jobs surprising synchronicities to unexpected opportunities, and so much more.
However, I kept hearing that the true magic comes from creating a regular gratitude practice, so, several months ago, I started using my pre-bed dog walk as a time to mentally list all the things I’m grateful for.
I start with what’s going on in the present moment, so my dog Oliver’s usually first on my list. Then, if it’s not raining, I’m grateful for that. If it’s raining and my umbrella’s not inside out, I’m grateful for that. If it’s snowing, I’m grateful that I have a warm place to return to once my dog does his business, quickly followed by being grateful for all my winter outerwear that keeps me from freezing my butt off while Oliver takes his time sniffing and marking every 3 feet or so. I’m grateful for my health and the fact that I have the ability to walk Oliver regardless of the weather.
Then I move on to other important things, like my incredible family and friends, life coaching and my awesome community of coaches, my apartment and all its utilities, you (yes, YOU!), the fact that I can get my food from a huge store filled with pretty much anything I’d ever want rather than having to go hunting and gathering...Usually once I hit this point, so many things start popping into my head that the next thing will come up before the previous words have fully formed—and they continue coming even after I’m inside.
As I go through my gratitude practice, it’s almost like it takes over my body and mind. (In a good way, of course.) I feel peaceful. As cliché as it sounds, I really do feel like my heart fills with love. I’m able to let go of the day’s frustrations and go to bed more relaxed and without my mind obsessing over what I didn’t get done that day or what I want to get done tomorrow.
Back in fall of 2011, the New York Times published an article about the findings of scientific studies on gratitude. It turns out that as I list my dozens upon dozens of things I’m grateful for, I’m helping my health, my sleep, my general satisfaction with my life, and, apparently, my levels of aggression, which might explain why I haven’t felt a strong urge to visit the batting cages lately.
There are lots of different ways you can enhance your sense of gratitude. To get started, it might help to set up a regular time for your gratitude practice, like while you’re brushing your teeth or waiting for your coffee to be ready. Many people use a gratitude journal to write five things each day, and there are plenty of apps out there if you’d rather have it digitized. If you need more accountability to help you follow through, consider finding someone you can share the experience with—maybe your family can establish a gratitude sharing time or you can exchange texts with a friend.
It doesn’t have to be a big, time-consuming thing. However it works for you is perfect. And I’m willing to bet that, one day not long into your new routine, you’ll realize you’re grateful for your gratitude practice.
Now, you already know a lot of the things I’m grateful for; I’d love to know what popped into your head while you were reading this post, so please let me know in the comments. I’d be ever so grateful!
Katie Baron: life coach, freelance writer, animal and nature lover, musician, relentless optimist