What is gratitude? We all have heard the term, maybe we practice it, or perhaps we have just muttered an unenthusiastic “I am so grateful to be alive” under our breath while we move on between tasks.
gratitude noun grat· i· tude | \ ˈgra-tə-ˌtüd , -ˌtyüd \
Definition of gratitude: the state of being grateful: thankfulness expressed gratitude for their support
The Merriam-Webster definition refers to a “state of being,” which is the ultimate goal. But taking it a step further, I would describe being grateful as a feeling. One must actually tune into their emotions to truly BE grateful. So many people tell me they practice gratitude, but when probed, their practice includes a very shallow acknowledgment of some aspect of their life, but without a full-stop to sit in the feeling, and well, feel grateful.
Now is the perfect time to start with a gratitude practice. It only takes a few minutes. For beginners, I will break the process down into a few simple steps.
1. Pick a time of day that you can consistently practice gratitude.
This will help it become a habit. I am going to go against the grain a little bit, and recommend doing your practice before you go to bed, or right when you wake up if you do not think you can take the time, or tend to forget in the hustle of the day. Set your reminder on your phone or download a short gratitude meditation and use it as the ringtone for your alarm. If you prefer practicing throughout the day, pick a trigger to remind you. For example, every time I walk through the front door, I will take one minute to practice gratitude. Make it realistic though.
2. Be completely present in your gratitude practice.
Most of us do not even know what it means to “be present” anymore. For this purpose, it means no distraction. No computer, phone, notifications pinging, children asking for a snack, watching a TV show, etc. At the risk of sounding woo woo, you need to be one with your emotions during this practice. Focusing on feeling can be more difficult than it sounds.
3. Select ONE thing to be grateful for.
For the purpose of this exercise, I do not want you listing out your top 100. Just pick ONE. Trust me, you can select a new item tomorrow. Or you can choose the same thing every day. It does not have to be profound. It does not have to fit societal norms. You can be thankful for air, fingers, children, a 5-carat diamond, or dirt in your yard. No one cares…this is your practice.
4. Focus on the feeling.
Pick a time limit…if you can only focus for one minute, make it one minute. But commit to feeling grateful for that full minute. Really think about the feeling (are you tired of my saying this word yet?). Immerse yourself in it. If you are grateful for dirt, think about how it feels running through your fingers or how it nourishes the plants you grow or eat. How would you feel without those plants? So often, we take things for granted, and this is a time to really consider how much value you place on the object of your gratitude practice.
It only takes a moment. Put a reminder on your calendar set to recur daily. Pretty soon, this will be part of your daily routine and you will wonder why you did not start sooner. The benefits you will experience are well worth the few minutes it takes for your practice. This is not just my opinion either. Psychology Today reports the seven benefits of a gratitude practice as:
- Gratitude opens the door to more relationships
- Gratitude improves physical health
- Gratitude improves psychological health
- Gratitude enhances empathy and reduces aggression
- Grateful people sleep better
- Gratitude improves self-esteem
- Gratitude increases mental strength
Who doesn’t need more of these improvements in their life? Now, if you will excuse me, I’ve got to go practice my gratitude for finishing this article.