JKLTip Build a toolbox of what works for you as an individual when it comes to building gratitude
Gratitude is a bit of a buzzword right now. But, it is far more difficult to achieve than people think. I want to give you a couple of ways to practice that push beyond surface gratitude. There are cafes and businesses opening with Gratitude in the name. It’s one of the hottest trends searched on the internet. For that reason, across industries, it is being recommended as a focus for employees and management. If a couple were to attend counseling, there is a strong chance the prescription will be “focus on gratitude”. So what are the possible gifts of gratitude?
Gratitude is not just like flipping a switch. Yet, many people are told to wake up and practice gratitude is the secret to having a great day. If it is that simple then why do so many try and fail? In reality, it takes a lot of effort and dedication for it to have the impact we seek. We are all in search of good vibrations. It would be nice if our lives were as enjoyable as possible and gratitude has been tasked with helping us reach such a state of bliss. But how?
What Is Gratitude?
Before we get into what to do about it, let’s take a look at what it is and how it helps. Gratitude is defined as the quality of being thankful and a readiness to show appreciation. The gifts of gratitude are a mix of art and science. The process of gratitude is extremely relative l because there are so many individual factors. It’s not necessarily about being happy, that’s where many people get it confused. We can be sad and grateful.
One myth is that gratitude only helps already well-functioning people. That’s not true. A recent study (1) showed that participants in the gratitude condition reported significantly better mental health than those in the other conditions. By writing with a focus on gratitude the mental health of the subjects improved. Many of the subjects were seeking support for anxiety and depression. But, like many self-improvement practices the rich often get richer, because they know how to take action.
Throughout their work, they made some interesting discoveries about the positive impact of gratitude. I think that most agree being thankful for what we do have instead of complaining about what we don’t have has been sound advice for a long time. But what does gratitude do? According to their work, it creates long-lasting shifts from toxic thoughts to more positive ones.
Here are a few techniques that push beyond the typical gifts of gratitude prescriptions. I would love to hear feedback from anyone who tries them out, so please do reach out.
Sneaky Ways To Be Grateful
If you know it’s a good thing but struggle with reaching a state of gratitude you may just need a few more creative hacks. Here are a few outside the box ways to get our brains accessing the benefits of being grateful.
- Gratitude Check-In. The most common way is to write a gratitude list. So, as part of your morning routine, write down 5 things you are grateful for. The problem with this is most will say the same things in a monotonous routine. For me, it’s health, family, friends, safety, and goals. Everyday. This may work for some for a while, but one addition to make it more creative is not using the same thing twice in a week.
- Thank you letter. Write a letter to a specific person, or organization expressing your gratitude to them. Because there is so much noise in the world, be specific with the who, what, why of why you are thankful for their existence, or action. If you are shy you don’t even need to share it or can wait.
- Tribute Music. As a multi-passionate creative this one really works for me. Artists, in spite of their struggles with mental health, would love to have been creating today I am sure. Yet, so many of them passed far too young. When I need a bit of a push I love to play music by Avicii, Amy Winehouse, or Mac Miller. By listening to their work it reminds me to be grateful for what I still have a chance to create.
- Sad SuperHeroes. This is like a nuclear weapon. It’s in part what helped me get out of the biggest funk of my life. By seeking perspective we can very quickly return to a place of appreciation. Therefore, read stories about people who are going through tough times. Watch a documentary short on a hockey team bus accident. Go volunteer at a hospital, or mental health facility. Many people see this as sad, but if you take the step to turn it around and appreciate it can lead to a lot of motivation.
- Public Wishing Well. This is a fun one. Go to a public space like a coffee shop and do some people watching. Spend your time observing people in their interactions and in your own head, unless you’re feeling really extroverted and socially risky, say some thoughtful well wishes in your head for that person.
- Daily Gratitude Digest. Instead of number one where you write down what you are grateful for in the micro, doing this specific to your day can be more helpful. As a practice, it has staying power. At the end of the day, describe at least five things you are grateful for that specifically happened today.
I hope this list helps to find your own gifts of gratitude. So, it would mean a lot if you try any of these out and provide feedback. I would love to hear how it goes for everyone. Do you know anyone who could use some support with gratitude? Help them out too by passing this on.
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(1) Y. Joel Wong, Jesse Owen, Nicole T. Gabana, Joshua W. Brown, Sydney McInnis, Paul Toth & Lynn Gilman (2018) Does gratitude writing improve the mental health of psychotherapy clients? Evidence from a randomized controlled trial, Psychotherapy Research, 28:2, 192-202, DOI: 10.1080/10503307.2016.1169332