Five years ago, life threw me a series of unfortunate curveballs. I was laid off from a job I loved, my dad was diagnosed with an incurable skin disease, and my apartment was infested with bedbugs. To say that I was caught in a downward spiral of negative thinking is an understatement. Dark and scary thoughts plagued my mind—however, when I tried to swap positive thoughts for the negative ones, it didn’t work. I simply couldn’t shake the negativity—until I started practicing gratitude. Why? Because positive thinking isn’t the opposite of negative thinking, expressing gratitude is.
Instead of obsessing about the things I lacked, I slowly started focusing on the ones that I did have and I was grateful for these things. I didn’t have a job, but I had a solid set of marketable skills, a rolodex of contacts who could lead to opportunities, and all the time in the world. My dad was sick, but he was alive and fighting the illness one day at a time. I couldn’t live in my studio for three months while the bedbugs were being exterminated, but I had plenty of friends and family who let me crash on their couches. As I paid more attention to what I was taking for granted, I was naturally more positive. It takes practice, but with a little effort you can become a happier person by incorporating more gratitude into your daily life. Here’s how it’s done.
Count your blessings.
Make a list of everything that you have. Include things you would normally take for granted like a roof over your head, running water, potable water, hot water, electricity, and television with hundreds of channels. See? You’re just getting started! Don’t forget access to the internet, toilets that flush properly, showers, and grocery stores within walking distance to your house. How about two legs to walk with? Hands to write with? Eyes to see? A healthy body and working heart? These are basic everyday things that most people overlook. Count these as blessings. Fold up your list and keep it in a safe place. When you’re feeling down, pull it out and read it. Keep adding to it.
Find joy in the little things.
Every day do something that makes you truly happy. Enjoy that moment. Spend two extra minutes in the shower letting the hot water warm your body. Eat a piece of chocolate and savor every bite. Read an article in your favorite magazine. Look at the photo album from your wedding. Stop and smell the roses. Marvel at the beauty of a full moon. Watch the sun set. Let the little things in life—like a nail polish color or high five from your fitness instructor for a job well done—spark joy in your soul.
Start a journal.
These days there are journals for everything. Get one and write in it daily, passionately, and actively. The Five Minute Journal has you wake up every morning and list out three items you are grateful for. The 52 Lists for Happiness Journal helps you reflect and invest in yourself by prompting creative lists. The One Line a Day Journal allows you to track your daily life over the course of five years. Find the journal that best suits you—maybe it’s a blank book and you doodle in it—and commit to expressing yourself and your gratitudes in it.
Say thank you. Send thank you letters and cards. Not just for birthday gifts, but for support, love, or no reason at all. Does your boyfriend pick you up from school every Wednesday? Do something nice for him that expresses your appreciation for this small task. Why not pick up a coffee for your coworker and surprise her with it? Tell her it’s a small token of your appreciation for a job well done. Let your loved ones know you are grateful for all they do.
Channel your inner child.
Children have a natural ability to truly enjoy the simple pleasures in life, be it an ice cream cone or a snowball fight. Find your inner child and have some fun. Swim in the ocean, run through the snow, get outside and play. Don’t worry about what others think, be grateful you are healthy and appreciate your time in nature.
Get a gratitude token.
Find a small token, a pretty crystal or smooth rock, and keep it nearby at all times. When you come across it in your pocket or purse, be grateful for something. For example, on a recent Sunday afternoon, I was in an incredibly long checkout line at Trader Joe’s. The wait caused me to negative think, specifically about all the things I wouldn’t get done because I was stuck at the grocery store for an extra 20 minutes. I reached into my purse for my phone, but came across my gratitude token (a Susan B. Anthony coin my grandfather gave me). I stopped what I was doing and looked around. I was grateful I didn’t have to deal with an upset child like the women two carts up. I was grateful that I wasn’t fighting with my better half like the man several carts over. I was grateful I had a disposable income to purchase flowers and sparkling wine. Suddenly, I was no longer in a bad mood and the wait didn’t seem so bad.
How do you incorporate gratitude into your everyday life? Share below.