I’m happier when I can find gratitude. It helps to shift my focus to what’s important and gain a new perspective. I’m prone to looking to the future and sometimes need to remind myself to enjoy the process. I can look forward to what’s to come, but I can’t get there if I’m not paying enough attention to what’s in front of me.
Today I’m sharing with you some of the ways I seek gratitude in my daily life. These help ground me and bring me back to myself. Pick one or two that speak to you and try working them into your routine, paying attention to how you feel. My hope is that over time, you’ll feel more connected to yourself and practicing gratitude will be a habit. Gratitude is a skill! It takes time to foster it, and like a muscle, you need to work on it regularly to see the benefits. I promise you it’s worth your time and effort.
1. Write them down
This one is probably the easiest action on this list and you can do it right now. Consider it entry-level gratitude! Think of three things you’re grateful for and write them down in a journal or on a sticky note. Keep them by your bed or post them on the wall where you’ll see them daily. These gratitudes don’t have to be big. Maybe someone waved at you during your run and it made you smile. Maybe you’re excited about having pancakes for breakfast. Nothing is too small to be grateful for. Keeping a log of your gratitudes can be a lot like tracking your workouts in the app; it’s great to be able to look back on these.
2. Reach out to someone
One of my favorite things in life is nurturing my relationships. Expressing gratitude to the people in your life is a perfect way to do that. There’s always an opportunity to show someone you care and are thinking about them, and there are so many ways to do so! Send a quick text message, make time for a video call, send them a song you think they’d like, write a postcard or letter (even if they don’t live far), remind them of a memory you shared. It might make their day and yours too.
3. Spend some quality time
What else nurtures relationships and is a great way to practice gratitude? Good ol’ quality time! You can use this time to reconnect with someone you haven’t seen in a while, a family member, your roommate (if you’re not completely annoyed by them at this point). Meet for coffee, share a meal (or cook one together), go for a walk, have a game night. Just make sure you’re completely present. When they speak, really listen to what they’re saying. If they need support, ask them how you can best provide this support, and vice versa. Don’t check your phone every five minutes! Stay connected.
Alternatively, if you’re always around people and need a break, spend that quality time with yourself.
4. Look to nature
It’s easy to overlook or take for granted what’s always around, but consider the age-old phrase, “Stop and smell the flowers.” Nature has a way of making me feel calm and reflective. It inspires me to work through my jumbled thoughts and figure out what I want in this moment of my life. I’ve learned the most about myself just from going for walks and I’m so grateful for that time spent (hey, this also counts as quality time with yourself!). There’s a huge variety of ways to enjoy and appreciate nature: grow your own plants, hike, visit a local park or public garden, go for a run! You can really get creative with the role nature plays in your life, and that alone is one of my favorite aspects of it.
5. Take advantage of an opportunity
Last year, in the span of a month, I lost a loved one and soon after had a falling out with someone I cared about. I had never felt so lost, sad, scared, and had no idea how to grapple with the pain I felt. The person I lost always encouraged me to go for the things I want. So, in her honor, I impulsively signed up for acting classes and entered a small writing challenge. I made truly wonderful friends in the class and was one of the featured writers in the challenge! This was the confidence boost I needed to know I was going to be okay.
What’s something you’ve always wanted to do that’s within your reach, but you just haven’t gone for it for some reason? Figure out how you can make that happen and do yourself this favor. Allow yourself to have these experiences!
6. Practice mindfulness
I used to associate this with meditation–and meditation is one wonderful way to practice mindfulness–but it’s not the only way! Think of one routine you already do regularly: making your morning coffee, your lunchtime walk, putting away the dishes, yard work, getting ready for bed. Any one of these activities can become your mindfulness routine. Do them with intention and care. Acknowledge your feelings and thoughts and be present with yourself. My mindfulness routine involves making my daily cup of matcha. I enjoy every part of the process, which brings me to discuss one of my favorite ways to practice mindfulness and gratitude (the two really go hand in hand)…
7. Engage your senses
Do you have a favorite fragrance, a scent that you associate with good memories, like a candle, a spray, an herb or spice, the pages of an old book, your morning coffee? What about a cozy blanket that you curl up in when reading or watching TV? A favorite meal or snack? A song that puts you in a good mood? Revel in these whenever you can. I mentioned my matcha, for instance. I enjoy the sound of the kettle heating the water, watching the little bubbles form at the surface after I whisk the matcha powder and water together, the vivid green color (again, nature!), and the warmth of the cup in my hands on a particularly cold day. Just writing this brings me some calm. Take your time to engage your senses and savor these little experiences throughout your day. “Stop and smell the roses” strikes again.
8. Give yourself credit and kindness
Remember when life was particularly hard and you got through it? Acknowledge this. You. Did. It. When I was 18, I started getting panic attacks out of nowhere. I developed intense anxiety and I thought I would never feel like myself again. Years later, I am so proud of myself for getting through this time. It was not quick or easy (an absolute understatement), and I still struggle sometimes, but I weathered storms that, at the time, I didn’t think I could handle. When things are rough, I remind myself of this and it brings me some comfort and confidence that I will make it through again. I accept that life is going to have downs, and even if I don’t feel prepared, I can and will overcome them.
Whatever you’re going through is hard enough without added self-pressure. Please treat yourself with kindness and empathy. I want to note: I’m not telling you to “just be positive!” because that’s not helpful advice. You can tell yourself you’re going to be okay while still letting yourself feel what you feel.
9. Focus on what you have and what you can control
(Now, it’s worth acknowledging that this particular topic can absolutely be more nuanced and involve many different factors that go beyond this small paragraph, so please note that I’m speaking somewhat generally.)
Do you ever think you would be so much happier, or your life would be so much better if you had X, Y, or Z? Sometimes we focus so much on what we don’t have and we end up in an endless cycle of wishing and hoping for more. I’ve done this plenty; it’s an easy habit to fall into. I mentioned earlier that I can get caught up in thinking about the future that I forget to enjoy the process of actually getting to the future. I try to remember: Just because you don’t have this/that, or haven’t accomplished XYZ, doesn’t mean you don’t deserve to be happy and can’t enjoy your life. You are enough just as you are. I realize this perspective/mindset shift is not easy, so please be patient with yourself. You will grow as you go.
10. Share your gratitude with others
At work, we have a Friday tradition where we share three gratitudes with each other. I love these glimpses into my colleagues’ lives and celebrating each other’s happiness and wins, big and small. One person is making peach pies with their kids! Another ran their first 5K! Some folks met up for coffee for the first time in months! Reading these inspires my own gratitudes and I’ve noticed when I share mine with others, I get an extra surge of that sweet, sweet serotonin.
Here are my three gratitudes today:
- Fresh clean sheets on my bed
- Drinking tea out of the mug my late friend gave me for my birthday. It makes me think of her every time, which was hard at first but now makes me smile.
- Whoever is reading this and the opportunity to share my thoughts with you
What are you grateful for? How did you practice gratitude today? Tweet us @Runkeeper. We would love to hear from you.