Gratitude practice is a great way to develop appreciation and promote a deeper sense of happiness and wellbeing in your life. It takes just minutes, but the impact is profound.
Here’s how our lives have changed since we started our gratitude practice.
I (Laura) have been keeping a gratitude journal for just over two years. It’s a record of positive experiences from the day, as well as an honest look at ways I can improve from a self development perspective.
Alongside yoga and meditation, I’ve noticed this practice of daily gratitude journalling has subtly rewired my brain to respond rather than react in situations that might otherwise have been triggering, overcoming the usual tendency for negative bias.
How Gratitude Saved the Day
One day I took Sarah on a date day to a nature reserve in the Adelaide Hills. I’d planned to surprise her with hot tea and homemade cookies while we roamed around the lakes, spotting native birds through grandad’s binoculars and taking in the waterside ambiance.
Turns out Murphy (the saint of ‘what can go wrong will go wrong’) had other plans.
On arrival at our secret destination, we realised the thermos of hot tea had spilled everywhere. It had soaked through our backpack, Sarah’s camera bag, and aaalllmost reached the ancient leather case for grandad’s binoculars.
If this had happened a year ago, that would probably have been it for the day. We’d have turned right around and driven straight home in silence, both fuming, our internal ego voices venting on repeat.
Instead, we found ourselves saying things like:
- “Thank god my bag soaked up most of the tea”
- “We’re so lucky to have this pack of tissues stashed back here”
- “Ooh! I even have a spare rag here I can clean things up with!”
- “Can’t believe that tea didn’t damage anything serious!”
Instead of driving away in a horrible angry huff, we just laughed and cleaned up as best we could, rearranging our cookies and remaining tea (still hot and enough for two cups – yay!) into a spare shopping bag from the back of the car (so lucky again) and setting off in search of new birds to spot and a lake to enjoy.
It sounds silly now, but this was a total turnaround moment for us, when I realised our gratitude and mindfulness practices were starting to seriously pay dividends.
Benefits of Gratitude
Developing a practice of intentional gratitude can help in so many ways. As we’ve discovered, it can increase long-term happiness and wellbeing. It can help us face adversity from a calmer, stable mental state, as well as reducing stress and helping us sleep better.
By developing mindfulness and connecting with our inner landscape, we’re able to accept and become better at expressing ourselves and our needs, leading to increased mental and physical health.
Through my daily gratitude practice, I’ve noticed I’m more aware of and appreciating the little things in life that bring me joy, like the willy wagtail that flits about our garden, watching steam rise from my hot cup of tea, or just noticing how the sun feels on my skin.
We’ve also realised, as we become more consciously aware of our selves, our behaviour and our emotions, just how much it can influence others around us.
How to Practice Gratitude
Keep a Gratitude Journal (Daily Practice)
This can be anything from a simple dot point record to a free writing exercise. Practicing daily helps it become an automatic habit, so schedule a time that works best for you and stick with it. For example, you could use it as a way to set the tone for the day ahead, or as a way to wrap up your experiences and promote a good night’s sleep.
Gratitude Journaling Prompts
If you’ve never kept a gratitude journal or are looking to expand your practice, here are a few of my favourite journalling prompts:
- I am grateful for… Anything and everything that made you smile today! Big or small, it doesn’t matter. It could be that I’m thankful for that extra hot cappuccino from our local cafe or for the black bird chorus we heard while working in our home office.
- I will let go of… I love this as a way to identify things I maybe didn’t do so well at today. Perhaps it was a way I reacted to interruptions or if I got snappy at people or emails.
- Tomorrow I will focus on… This could be a reminder to stop taking life so seriously, or a list of activities I want to do (work tasks, reading, exercise, connecting with family and friends, taking more breaks to declutter my mind, etc).
- Happy moments from today… If there are any key moments you loved from the day, write them down! For example, one day it was the way Bonnie rushed into our room for extra-wriggly morning cuddles. Another day it was the love heart Sarah made in the froth on top of the amazing cappuccino she made for me.
- How I felt today… It may be helpful to record honestly how you’re feeling today… happy, sad, confident, anxious, calm, stressed, relaxed or uncertain. What’s causing it and what could you do about it?
- A small success from today… What’s one special thing you achieved today that you’re grateful for? Did you surprise yourself? Was something easier than you expected it to be?
Our Family Journal (Monthly Practice)
(AKA: How Gratitude Leads to Reflection and Even Deeper Appreciation)
Shortly after I began my personal gratitude journal, Sarah and I started a mutual ‘Family Journal’ as a record of our combined achievements and experiences.
We make it a habit to sit down once a month to reflect and record everything we achieved as well as the little things that made us proud or brought joy to our lives over the month.
It could be anything from the progress we’ve made with our food blog, little trips or adventures we’ve been on, or ways we’ve helped friends or family throughout the month.
Looking back through all these memories is AMAZING. It’s not only a great way to see just how far we’ve come since we started journalling, but gets us motivated and excited to see where we’ll be at in the next 12 months!
Tips To Help You Get Started
Just like any habit, committing to your gratitude practice for the first few weeks will make it easier to sustain, and help you gain the most benefit from your practice.
- Two Minutes – If you’re struggling to start, allow yourself just two minutes to sit and start writing.
- Start Small – Start with just three things you’re grateful for each day. As you continue to practice, you may find yourself automatically writing more and more as you become more aware of what you’re grateful for.
- Keep a Physical Journal – Instead of a digital device, write by hand. This helps to minimises digital distraction, while the action of taking out your notebook and pen will help your brain switch gears into ‘gratitude’ mode.
- Images Instead of Words – If you don’t like to write, try sketching images, taking photos or saving pictures from magazines. You could even keep a Pinterest board if that’s more your style. Find what works for you and stick with it!
I hope these tips were helpful as you explore your own gratitude practice. When you flick back through the pages in a month, a year or two years from now, I have no doubt it will be amazing to see how far you’ve come!
So what are you most grateful for today? Share a comment and you might just brighten up someone’s day. 🙂