Starting a gratitude practice (DW#645)

I really hope that by now you are convinced that a regular practice of gratitude is a powerful way to improve your mental and emotional wellbeing.

So how can you make it a part of your life?

1. Make an intention and commit.
Like creating any habit, we start with an intention. In this case, an intention to become more grateful and an intention to commit to a regular practice of gratitude.

Once we make the intention though, we may begin to notice that gratitude doesn’t seem to come as easily as grumbling does. Some days we will find it much more challenging than others. If we can just acknowledge the resistance and do it anyway, we will find that we will reap the greatest benefits.

2. Begin.
So let’s do it. There is nothing more to know or to research. We already have all the information we need about the benefits. The benefits, however, do not come from knowledge. They come from practice.

The easiest way to begin is to sit down with pen and paper or at your computer and start, "I am grateful for …" If you cannot think of anything, start by being grateful for the ability to write, or to type or that you have a computer. Keep writing – the ideas will begin to flow.
There is no wrong way to do this.

3. Write it down.
The feeling of gratitude is great. But it is transitory and sometimes not enough to create real change or benefit. There is real power in expressing the gratitude that we feel. So write it out.

4. Feel it.
Some days we will write without really feeling it and that is fine. We are starting a habit and that takes time. Remind yourself that it is okay and do it anyway. When you can summon up the feeling of gratitude in your heart though, let it percolate through every cell in your body. Allow yourself to stay with the feeling for a few seconds or more.

5. Choose a set time of day.
In order to ritualize the formal practice of gratitude, it is best to keep to a regular time of day. First thing in the morning or last thing at night. Both have their own merits. Choose what works for you. Or do both.

Consider the idea of habit stacking: stacking your practice of gratitude on top of something you already do regularly, such as praying or a bedtime ritual.

6. Get a gratitude buddy
Keep yourself accountable by pairing up with someone to share your successes and challenges with. Cheer each other on and encourage each other to keep at it.

7. Keep going.
Once you start practicing gratitude you may begin notice positivity increase in your life quite quickly. It is tempting to think that you do not need to continue the formal practice anymore. This is a mistake. Your wellbeing may be increasing as a direct result of this practice so don’t give up on it.

If you do not notice any major changes right away, do not get discouraged. Remind yourself that the individual impact of any one piece of gratitude is small, but the cumulative effect is huge. The power of this habit comes has a multiplier effect that is really powerful once you have been practicing it for a month or two. You will know that you have ingrained this habit once you begin to recognize everyday as a good day (at least in a small way).

8. Make it sustainable.
The easier and simpler you make the practice of gratitude, the more likely you will be to continue in the long term. So make it small and simple and let go of the idea of perfection.

9. Be realistic and embrace your humanity.
It is highly unlikely that you will do this perfectly. There will be days that you will not feel gratitude no matter what. That you will want to grumble rather than be grateful. There will be days you will miss your practice.

Instead of beating yourself up about it, simply get back on track as soon as you can.

10. Experiment
Doing the same thing may get boring after a while. If you find yourself not being able to get into it for several days in a row, experiment with different ideas and practices (we will be sharing many over the next few days). Try different practices and see which ones work best for you.

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