You can practice gratitude when you're stirring a pot of soup or looking into someone’s eyes, brushing your teeth or looking up at the sky. Documenting what you’re thankful for is great for happiness, but you don't necessarily have to write it down. Here are a few more ideas to get the joy flowing.
“Sometimes,” said Pooh, “the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” — A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh
It might be something that made you stronger, the quality of your relationships, that bird you watched in the window while you were drinking your morning coffee or tea—it really doesn’t have to take much to spark deep appreciation that resonates throughout your whole being. It’s actually usually the small things that make a grand difference.
What a fascinating fact that I’m here at all, never mind right here in this place as this person when there are infinite chances to experience something else. That’s a miracle, right? Even if it doesn’t always feel like one, it’s the most miraculous thing I’ve encountered.
Gratitude so often begins with an overall, overwhelming reverence for life, even if we don’t understand it.
3 Ways to Practice Gratitude When You Don’t Feel Like Writing it Down
1. “But, why?”
Gratitude is much more influential when we get specific. Overgeneralizing gratitude effectively allows us to sweep over the surface of everything we’ve just mentioned so that we don’t really get to the heart of how life-giving our thanks can be.
So, you’re grateful for something, or you’re just looking at something right now (like these words); why are you grateful?
First, focus on:
- One part of your body.
- One person who was or is there for you.
- One animal that comforts you.
- One object you can see, feel, smell, or taste right now.
- One sound you can hear right now.
- One characteristic you possess.
- One habit you keep.
- One kind gesture you witnessed or partook in.
- One quiet moment.
- One other thing, person, event, or experience of your choosing.
Secondly, answer the question: But, why are you grateful? Tell me more.
It’s easy to be grateful for things that don’t hurt, are visibly beautiful, smell lovely, taste delicious, sound pleasing, or help us in some way. This is a practice where you can either focus on what is already pleasant to you (like a flower) or something that challenges your perspective (like an insect).
The real beauty of this practice is that you go deeper into whichever item or experience you focus on until you can thoroughly and confidently answer the question, “Why am I grateful for this?” The more details, the better.
Coming up with an answer might be difficult given certain situations, like sitting in traffic, changing a diaper, or being stung by a bee. Even then, though, there are infinite reasons to cultivate gratitude, a few being that you have a vehicle to drive, this baby’s smile brightens your day, and your body is here to help you experience all the nuances of living.
What a gift it is to go deeper into the miracle of being alive.
Happiness rushes in to greet me if I’m paying attention to the moment I’m standing in, heart empty of resistance, mind open to peace.
2. Reverse bucket list.
As a traditional bucket list details all the experiences we wish (and maybe even plan) to have at some point in our lives, a reverse bucket list requires a bit of a mindset shift. The reverse bucket list (which, again, can come to fruition with or without a writing utensil) is dedicated to the experiences you have already had that you’re grateful for.
In creating a reverse bucket list, dreaming is replaced with reflection and you recount the accomplishments, milestones, moments, and miracles that you’ve been a part of.
It can be pretty challenging to create a reverse bucket list, although it’s simple in concept. It’s easy to wish for all the things you want for yourself and others, and it’s quite another feat to give yourself credit for how far you’ve come.
Your list, whatever form it takes, can include:
- Places you’ve lived,
- Activities you’ve tried,
- Skills you’ve learned,
- Habits you’ve dropped or started,
- People you’ve met,
- Positive changes you’ve made, and
- Anything that contributed to the qualities you possess today that you’re grateful for.
This practice in no way takes the magic away from hoping for something new; it doesn’t have to. Just as beautiful as it is to keep one’s mind open to new possibilities is one’s ability to remain open to one’s journey.
Gratitude encourages us to stop needing more so that we can see deeper into what is already here.
3. A “grateful not to have” conversation.
This is kind of like listing off things you’re grateful for (with or without a writing utensil) but it focuses on what you’re grateful not to have in your life.
In essence, you’re highlighting the beauty of the ordinary.
I don’t recommend always practicing gratitude this way because you’ll be focusing on the events, realities, drama, noise, and things that you don’t want (not every single day, anyway). Focusing on what you don’t want too much will energize how you feel about those things, so try not to dwell on the individual scenarios. Just list them off—in your head or to another person.
For instance, I am grateful not to have a doctor’s appointment every day. I am grateful not to have a flat tire every day. I am grateful not to have to wear a raincoat every single day.
I don’t want to get stuck in the commotion of the things I’m not grateful for, but this is a great alternative when I don’t feel like being grateful. It works well to get me out of an ungrateful funk and make me see that most days are actually full of opportunities to smile.
One of the best ways to grow gratitude (besides focusing on it) is to share it with someone else.
. . .
What's ONE thing you're grateful for today?
Tell me in the comments. I read every single one, and I'd love to know!
P.S. Know what helps you fall asleep easier? Gratitude. To help you with that, get my book Sleep Affirmations. No matter what you've been through, no matter what needs to change... you'll get light right where you need it most. And you’ll feel… better.