“Pursue what catches your heart, not what catches your eyes.”
Roy T. Bennett
This post explores the power of gratitude and more importantly how to harness it. With tips on how to design a beneficial practice that is uniquely yours and a plethora of ideas to get you started. There is something for everyone looking to fall back in love with life.
Let’s Start With Some Truths
You are intelligent, attractive, successful. You have fantastic friendships, can be the life of the party, and cosy at home with wine and good conversation. Yet February, specifically the first 2 weeks can make you question it all.
In the search to find someone to love, you fall out of love with who you are and the life you lead. The desire for external validation (completely normal btw) means we forget how to validate ourselves and the amazing things in our lives.
Therefore there is no better time to start (or restart) a gratitude practice.
But how to start a gratitude practice? How to make it stick?
And what even is the point?
Gratitude means to notice and reflect on good emotions that arise through experiences you are thankful for and possessions that bring you joy. One of the greatest benefits of cultivating this practice is that it will help you to strengthen current relationships and bring in new ones. And ultimately bring you closer to ‘the one’, or at least the one - right now.
The Benefits Of Gratitude
I am sure by now you have come across various articles explaining the science behind gratitude and its key benefits. So rather than repeat what the experts know far better than I, here’s a quick summary as a reminder.
Greater connection with others
Increased generosity and compassion
Promotes a greater feeling of safety and connection
Silences negative emotions
Elongates good emotions
Stronger immune system
This is driven by a mix of things going on in the body.
The areas of the brain that light up when we practice gratitude, are responsible for social interaction, bonding, reward, and empathy to name a few.
The nervous system will drop into a parasympathetic state (rest and digest) aiding our bodily functions.
A release of our feel-good neurochemicals, dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin which all help us to feel closer to others, deepen that connection and boost happiness.
And that’s what we know about so far.
Ideas To Get You Started
Okay so now the benefits are clear and you are keen to start, here are a few ways that you could include gratitude and fall in love with life.
Keen to make your practice as unique and successful as you are, then scroll down for my top 5 tips.
> Thank you letters
Simple and effective. You can send these after a birthday for example or just write them to the most important people in your life. You don’t even have to send them.
The classic way. Capture at least 3 things you are thankful for that day in your journal.
> Monthly Reflections
Join Me. Each month I am sharing the things I am grateful for under 4 categories; achievements, easily forgotten, others, myself. Read them here.
> Bedtime Story
Fun for kids. Use what you are grateful for to create a story of your day.
> Gratitude Jar
Heart-opening. Every time you feel thankful, grab a slip of paper and drop it in a jar. Set aside a special time to open the jar and read back over the wonderful things in your life. I’ve done it in the past on New Year’s Eve and it was an incredible way to end the year.
> Phone App (Bliss)
Tech-riffic. We are all so connected with our phones, why not use it to support your gratitude routine. There are many out there such as Bliss, so have a google and find one that works for you.
For accountability. In need of a guiding hand, then find a life coach who can help you power up your gratitude benefits in a session or two. As part of my coaching session, my clients complete a tracker with their actions and 3 things they are grateful for.
Full-bodied. Take 5 minutes out of your day to sit in silence and count your blessings. Envision each one in detail and let the feelings wash over you.
> Say Grace
A classic with a new twist. Before eating your dinner or maybe while setting the table, take a moment to be thankful for the food you have, the people that grew it or the simple things that you have in your home.
> Savour the Moment
Full technicolour. Pick one thing you do every day that you love and choose to focus on just that in the moment. It could be your morning cup of tea, a walk, showering, favourite song etc.
> Seek Out Awe
Powerful. Awe is an incredible emotion with a whole host of benefits, so seek it out each day and give thanks for what you find.
> Silent Connection
Seems silly but feels good. Next time you are on a bus or train silently compliment each of the other passengers. It could be the book they are reading, the smile on their face, the fact they are a good parent or just that they are a beautiful human, just like you.
Make it Your Own
So now you have seen there are lots of ways to include gratitude in your day and rightly so, you want to make it your own. Make sure that you include the following 5 tips to ensure you get the most reward from counting your blessings.
Start Small & Be Consistent
Your time is precious and often rather full and most research suggests that to have long-term impacts we need to stay consistent with our practice for at least 21 days.
Therefore this shouldn’t be a daily grand gesture but more of a marathon to reap the rewards.
Continuing this thought Rick Hanson, a psychologist and author has found that it takes only 20 seconds of gratitude to create positive changes in the brain.
20 seconds a day for 21 days is a whopping 7 minutes overall.
And with that 20 seconds a day, you will activate a powerful part of your brain known as the RAS (reticular activating system) which is the gatekeeper between the conscious mind and the subconscious, meaning that you will unknowingly always be looking out for things to be grateful for. Bonus.
Be Realistic & Specific
As humans, we are plagued by negativity bias, a default way of looking at the world to keep ourselves safe. Of course, we all want to be safe, and we also want to be happy and that’s where gratitude comes in.
However, we can’t go all in guns blazing ignoring the things in life that do frustrate us. If we do the inner bias will be sure to kick in. Snatching away our good feelings and all the benefits that go alongside.
Therefore you want to be realistic and this is where being specific can help.
Instead of saying I’m so grateful for my job, break it down into what you are truly grateful for, which could be your colleagues, WFH, the fancy coffee machine etc.
Then get even more specific, by stating why you are grateful for it. For example, I am so grateful for my colleagues, they are always there to support me on the good and bad days.
Can you immediately feel how more true and powerful that is compared to I am grateful for my job?!
Perfect – let's move on.
Our brain likes to use as little energy as possible, in fact, its main role is to keep the status quo. (This is why the first few weeks in a new job are more tiring than any other.) Therefore the brain will adapt to your gratitude practice and you will get less benefit from it.
So it’s helpful to get creative
You don’t need to mix things up every day, but as soon as you start feeling restricted, bored or indeed miss a day it may be time for a change. Create a new routine or try one of the ways I suggest and excite your mind again into being your gratitude ally.
Create A Reminder
All routines and habits have one thing in common and that’s a cue or trigger. Something that means you go and complete the task such as cleaning your teeth before bed.
Use this to your advantage and create yourself a reminder and remember to fit it in somewhere in your day when you have time and energy.
If you currently have a full morning routine, don’t try and squeeze it in. Similarly, if you always fall into bed shattered don’t plan to complete your gratitude practice then.
Pick wisely and create a reminder.
Your reminder could be as simple as an alarm that goes off, a pop up from your calendar or even a current habit such as cleaning your teeth. After all, we know we should be brushing for 2 minutes so 20 seconds allocated to gratitudes feels efficient to me.
And of course, as we not only want gratitude to help us fall in love with life, but to fall in love with others we can include them in our practice.
From friends to children, to partners new and old, sharing what you are grateful for with or even about them will bring you closer. And share all the wonderful benefits.
It can be as overt or as subtle as you like, from directly asking ‘what are you grateful for?’ to folding into conversation ‘what’s good with you right now?’
Or indeed just sharing a story of thanks yourself, sparking connection and joy.
The Power Of Gratitude
Gratitude has played a huge part in helping me fall in love with my life. And it helped me find my future husband who (almost) every night will share 3 things he is grateful for before it’s my turn.
I am incredibly thankful for that and I know gratitude will do the same for you. So that you can focus back on the intelligent, attractive and successful being that you are and call in what matters.
With Love & Gratitude
P.S Gratitude is number 6 in my article - 6 Things To Do When You Can’t Distract Yourself With Music (Or Your Phone)