After listening to Tamara Levitt’s Calm Masterclass “Gratitude” yesterday, I decided it’s time to spend a week on learning how to cultivate a grateful mindset. Practicing gratitude daily has many science-backed benefits. It helps us:
- lower stress
- sleep better
- rewire our tendency toward negative thinking
- overcome cravings, envy, and expectations
It’s also a small thing we can do every day to boost our happiness, bad days included. Just 5 minutes a day can make a great difference. That’s literally the time we spend waiting for our tea or coffee to cool down. So no “I don’t have time” excuses.
As with any new habit, gratitude takes time to become ingrained in our day-to-day life. Studies showed that it takes months to reap the biggest benefits from daily practice. However, just from my own experience with a simple gratitude exercise, I noticed that it can improve my mood instantly.
A simple practice
This year I took inspiration from Aileen Xu (Lavendaire) and added both a “grateful for” and “today’s win” section to my daily planner. You can do it on a post-it or a napkin, so no need to get fancy. Starting small, my aim is to write down every day at least one thing I’m grateful for + one thing I accomplished that day. It can be as simple as “I’m grateful the sun was shining so I could go to the park with my son” or “I made my bed this morning. It looks so comfortable and inviting now.”
Sharing is caring
In the Calm Masterclass, Tamara Levitt taught a great exercise you can do with a loved one. I started doing this yesterday with my best friend who lives on the other side of the world. Every day this week we’re going to text each other via WhatsApp one to ten things we’re grateful for. My friend even took this a step further and added a picture documenting her favorite moment. Very often our loved ones are the ones who graciously listen to our complaints. I think this exercise is a good way to balance this with a healthy dose of positivity.
The happiness jar
One of the cool things I saw today as I updated the new TBBL Pinterest page was a pin of a gratitude jar. If you write down the things that make you happy on a piece of paper, you can stick it in a jar or a box throughout the year. That way, whenever you feel like life forced you to your knees, you can read through these notes and be reminded of the many things that make it worthwhile to get back up.
Reminders are key
If you’re anything like me, not having a reminder to stay on track with healthy habits makes it almost impossible to stick with them in the beginning. I like to set both visual and auditory reminders. Visual can be a note on the fridge or the mirror. Auditory can be setting an alarm on your phone (just make sure you choose a sound or song that gives you good vibes).
Sometimes we need a little nudge to get us going. So here are some questions that can remind us of all the things we can be grateful for:
- What or who made you smile today?
- Who was kind to you?
- Who helped you?
- Whose company did you enjoy?
- What felt, smelled, tasted, looked or sounded good?
- What did you learn today?
If you’re into free writing, you can answer these questions in a gratitude journal. I use 52 Lists for Happiness: Weekly Journaling Inspiration for Positivity, Balance, and Joy by Moorea Seal. Just looking at this journal lifts my spirits.
Turn a negative into a lesson learned
One of the most powerful benefits that gratitude can give us is learning to find the silver lining in a bad situation or experience. Tamara Levitt suggests to pick one of our failures or a difficult situation and write a letter to ourselves. Start by acknowledging the pain or disappointment you feel and then reflect on what you learned from the experience. For example, regret can motivate us to take risks. We may have met people or gained opportunities and wisdom. Maybe we were able to develop important qualities such as patience or self-care.
“Our happiness doesn’t cause gratitude. Gratitude causes happiness. […] We will all suffer during this life in different ways and no matter what loss or heartache we face, gratitude can be a glowing light in the darkness, a source of comfort and resilience.” —Tamara Levitt
Image: Nicole Honeywill