There's a ton of research about the connection between gratitude and joy, and implementing a basic ritual or two in your daily routine can be simple and have long lasting effects.
Practicing a gratitude ritual at the end of the day helps rewire the brain to seek evidence all day long to find things to be grateful for.
This put you at a glass half full advantage.
In my experience, over time, seeking out gratitude starts to happen in real time, instead of only at the end of the day.
When your tire is flat, your attention goes to feeling grateful for the stranger who helped you with the spare, rather than stuck fixating on how terrible and inconvenient it was getting the flat.
Your morning coffee becomes a moment of appreciation for the taste, the warmth and the energy boost, rather than just grab and go.
Bringing the kids to the grocery store during nap time shines light on appreciation for having access and resources for healthy food.
I want to share two practices that I use to express gratitude and cultivate connection within me and my family.
How to start
A way to practice gratitude on your own is to keep a bedside journal. At the end of each day, writing what you're thankful for, something you appreciate or something that lit you up that day.
You may choose to include a challenge or a tough part too and seek out something that you could be grateful for in that situation too – no matter how small. Practice will support you in building the habit of approaching the day looking for the good - which is essential particularly in times of great challenge.
On a rough day, when there seems to be nothing to appreciate or feel grateful about, I notice my attention moving into what seems like a cellular level, trying to find evidence in seemingly bleak circumstances. On these days, my gratitude reflects in the basic forms and functions of being alive.
- I'm grateful to have a warm bed.
- I'm grateful for my breath, which sustains me without effort.
- I appreciate that I can try to repair it tomorrow.
- I'm grateful for indoor plumbing.
- I'm grateful for my able body.
This practice has helped me to make sense of my day, especially when it's challenging. It helps me to connect to my needs and myself.
Family Gratitude circle
– Sit in a circle, holding hands or sitting knee to knee before bedtime.
– Take turns answering these questions:
1. What was the best part of your day? What are you grateful for?
2. What was the toughest part of your day? What was challenging? What didn't you like?
"I am grateful for…."
And "the toughest part was ___ because I need/want/value ___. "
Not only does this process allow each person to reflect and share the high and low of their day, but it creates time just for listening and holding each other's feelings and experiences.
Plus, adults can model being responsible for their needs that were met and unmet through the sharing which can minimize shame, blame or guilting others.
For example, if the toughest part of your day was seeing your child hit another person, you can share that without shaming him/her by noting the need that was not met for you, such as "the toughest part of my day was when Anna hit Charlie, because I want everyone to be safe during play."
Resist the urge to discuss what has been shared - your job is simply to be present and to listen with empathy.
This sharing is brief – one or two sentences.
Respond with presence, unattached to fixing anything.
Nodding or tilting your head, making sounds that convey attention and care - "Uh huh," and "mmm" - go a long way.
The message is "I hear you and your experience matters to me."
This simple practice with my family has strengthened our connection, the sense that we matter to one another, and that we each have the desire to know and understand each other.
And for those reasons and more, I am deeply grateful.
Wishing you an abundance of things to be grateful for today.
PS - Feeling a little stuck, or that things could be a bit better? Schedule a free insight call with me.