The Practice of Gratitude

Gratitude Creates a Happier Life

“It is not happiness that brings us gratitude. It is gratitude that brings us happiness.”

By Teresa Lowry

It’s that time of year again when our thoughts turn to gratitude and thanksgiving. From the end of November until New Year’s Day many of us become more reflective taking stock and counting our blessings. We may periodically think or say what we are grateful for, but for many of us it is not a daily routine. Let’s use the momentum of this season to note and express gratitude 365 days a year.

Building and maintaining a robust daily gratitude practice can result in a happier outlook on life. A gratitude practice is recommended for everyone. It is essential for successful leaders. You change your life when you change something you do daily. The secret of your success will be found in your daily routine.

Science Says

There is certainly ample antidotal evidence that a regular gratitude practice can have a positive impact on emotional composition. Some would describe it as a form of self-care. World religions and many spiritual paths extoll the virtue of living in a state of gratitude. Now a growing body of research links a regular gratitude practice to better sleep, greater happiness and even lower blood pressure. Says Amie Gordon, PhD, a research scientist at the University of California, San Francisco “Gratitude is a powerful way to boost well-being”. A 2015 study in the Journal of Health Psychology found improved sleep quality for participants after two weeks of keeping a gratitude diary. Other benefits include improved self-control and greater relationship harmony and feelings of happiness.

Building a Gratitude Practice

To develop and maintain a gratitude practice set a designated time and place each day. You are intentionally identifying things you are grateful for and noting them. I am old school and enjoy writing my gratitude list out longhand in a journal. You could use a notebook or binder paper it doesn’t have to be fancy. If you want to journal electronically go for it. This will be a daily entry and each entry should be dated. Make five to ten gratitude notations. People, places, things, nature, animals, events, experiences, the potential is limitless. If you get stuck start with the basics – I am grateful for my breath.

Gratitude 2.0

Once you get started there are additional questions you can ask yourself. For example, include something you did, some action you took where you can give yourself appreciation. Yes, you can be grateful for you. Use all your senses. Touch, smell, sound, taste. Also ensure that at least one of the grateful notations is about a challenge, struggle, loss, hurt or pain. Look deeply for the good in something that was difficult at the time but brought a positive outcome or great lesson for you. Pick one of the items of gratitude and purposefully express it to the person involved.

Louis Armstrong Singing “What a Wonderful World”

I am able to attest personally to the power of a daily gratitude practice. I have been making my daily lists for over twenty years. This is a powerful and positive way for me to start each day. There are many repeat notations in my journals. One you will see more than once is hearing Louis Armstrong sing “What a Wonderful World”. No matter where on the planet I am if that song comes on the radio or through a sound system and I hear it I smile and melt. So many of you reading this will have been on my list many times. I am so very very grateful for you my family, friends, my Aegis Learning Team, Honey Badger Team, Bootcamp Team, colleagues and customers. Thank you all for the many ways you enrich my life.

Teresa Lowry is a passionate advocate for learning, growth and generating real organizational change.

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