Fourteen Gratitude Habits
Are you tired, wired, and running in circles? Are you in survival mode? Lisa Lucas, author of Practicing Presence: Simple Self-Care Strategies for Teachers, knows the feeling. And she has a wealth of tips to emerge from the numbness. Cultivating the habit of gratitude is one of her go-to strategies. As we approach Thanksgiving, Lisa shares her take on gratitude, which she thinks of as the essence of presence.
by Lisa Lucas
You become what you think about all day long. The thoughts you think, repeated over and over, become your mind-set. Gratitude opens pathways in the brain that help us become healthier. A thankful thought doesn’t just remain in your mind; it flows, circulates, and expands.
If you could choose just one of these practices, and make it habitual, you would begin to actually rewire your brain to notice what’s good rather than what’s bad.
1. Begin every day by identifying five things to be grateful for. Sometimes I go through the alphabet, each day focused on things that begin with the letter of the day. Or at night, I go through the entire alphabet, thinking of one thing for each letter that I’m grateful for.
2. I’m grateful to Brother David Steindle-Rast, a Benedictine monk for this idea: Each morning, choose a theme for the day. My favorite focus is the sun. Every time I feel the warmth of the sun on my face, see a sunrise or a sunset, I am instantly filled with gratitude.
3. Exchange annoyance for gratefulness. Bring to mind someone at work that you feel annoyed with. Now imagine if the person were no more. It can put things into perspective really quickly.
4. Visit the past and recall a difficult time. If we reflect on the trials we’ve faced, we often realize that it is the difficult times when we grow the most. This can help us savor and appreciate when things are good.
5. Abstain from something that you love for four days. Notice how much more you appreciate it when you reintroduce it back to your life.
6. Say ‘thank you’ when things go right. Mean it, feel it, and even better—record it.
7. Express to others verbally what they have done to make you feel grateful. Be specific. Tell them what they did, how it made you feel, and why.
8. Put your gratitude in writing. Send a short text or e-mail, or better yet, a card or note that is a tangible reminder for someone else that his or her act of kindness counted.
9. Reach out. Hug someone who you feel grateful to have in your life. Touch activates the vagus nerve and can release oxytocin.
10. Find a gratitude mantra, prayer, or sentence—anything that you can repeat throughout the day.
11. Create a happy file. Save any sincere thank you that you receive and revisit them on the days when you are struggling to remember the good in your life.
12. Notice others being kind to one another. This cultivates empathy and activates our mirror neurons, which activate as we observe–as if we ourselves had acted kindly.
13. When you can’t sleep, count your blessings. Substantial research indicates that grateful people sleep better and spend less time awake before falling asleep.
14. End your day by recording in a gratitude journal three things each day that you are grateful for.
Recent research has shown that those who frequently feel and express gratitude appear to enjoy their work more, are more optimistic, and are more likely to help and support others. Sounds like all of us could use a dose of gratitude to kick off the holiday season.
Tune into Lisa’s VoiceEd Radio podcast for more on gratitude and practicing presence.