Practicing Gratitude

In a previous post, I shared that November is one of my favorite months. Now that autumn has arrived in New England, the leaves are fully peaked and the air is chilled. It’s the perfect weather to get lost in a bundle of blankets and curl up with a good book and a hot mug of tea.

November is also the perfect month to practice gratitude. For those who live in the U.S., Thanksgiving is just around the corner. And for those who went to public school, the notion of “being thankful” was drilled into our heads every November for years. I should ask my mom how many art projects I brought home every year that consisted of my hand looking like a turkey, each finger listing what I was grateful for. She probably still has them!

As an adult, I laugh at the turkey hand memory but appreciate that my teachers attempted to instill a sense of gratitude in us during this important season. I have been a bit “gratitude” obsessed for a few years now (see these blog posts from 2015 and 2016), and for good reason: keeping and cultivating a sense of gratitude is a key component to your happiness. It helps center you in the present moment as you reflect on what brings you joy in life.

Since I started therapy in 2013, I have been keeping regular gratitude journals. Before bed each night, I silently think of three things I am grateful for — whether it is a certain moment that happened in the day, a person, or a general part of my life that sparks gratitude. It helps keep me focused, and works to eliminate the negative thoughts that tend to plague me as I try to fall asleep at night.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020, it felt like there wasn’t a lot to be grateful for. This pandemic has impacted the lives of so many; to think of anything positive during this time made me feel guilty. But, I had to do it. Despite the guilt, I continued to reflect on my own gratitude, listing my three items each night before I closed my eyes. I won’t say that it always kept the nightmares away; it didn’t always chase away the fear and negative thoughts. But it did help ground me in the present; it helped me be thankful for my health and the health of my loved ones.

Over the years, I have also followed Dani on Positively Present. Dani is an incredibly talented digital artist and creator, whose original blog idea turned into a brand focused on positivity and mental health. Her work is truly inspiring and I enjoy seeing her content daily on Instagram. Dani has also released books, calendars, workbooks, and other products that I have on my birthday and Christmas list this year.

Dani has also hosted a #Gratitude30 Challenge for 11 years. Through #Gratitude30, Dani posts 30 prompts and challenges you to write down what you are grateful for each day. A few examples are words, nature, health, friendship, growth, family, and kindness. I have been participating in her challenge for a few years now, and I love sitting down each morning with my special colored pens and reflecting on what brings me gratitude. It’s a wonderful practice and way to get you in the swing of practicing gratitude each day.

No matter how you practice gratitude, remember that there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Even saying “thank you” to someone is a grateful act! Do you have pictures of loved ones at your desk at work or in your home office? That’s a great start, too! Take time throughout the day to reflect on what you are thankful for, and you will start to feel the difference.

How do you practice gratitude? Share some more ideas in the comments below.