I’ve read yet another book that reaffirms the fact that taking time to pay attention to what is good in your life does make people happier. This book, Hardwiring Happiness, focuses on the neuroscience. The physical makeup of the brain actually changes when you focus on good things, and those changes make you better able to cope with life’s disappointment and enjoy life’s gifts.
I’m paraphrasing, of course, but the principle remains the same:
Practicing gratitude causes real, meaningful change.
Emphasis on the word practicing, which is something you do.
For about two years, I did my gratitude right here on this blog with my happiness highlights posts. Around the first of the year, I decided it was time for a change.
I wanted to create a practice that was daily rather than weekly. I also wanted a way to capture moments as I experienced them and relive them later. As a result, I started two new gratitude practices.
I’ve tried journaling in the past, but I’ve always struggled to develop a long-term habit. I went out and bought myself a pack of colored pens in an effort to make the process more fun. I imagined I’d be creating beautiful journal pages every night.
I am writing lists with colored arrows.
But that’s OK. That’s working for me.
Every night before I go to bed, I spend five minutes making two lists. One is the list of good things I remember from the day, the second is a short list of what I want to do the next day.
If I’m feeling pissed off or sad or just off in some way, I make a note of that, too. It makes my gratitude practice feel more sincere, because I’m not just gratitude-washing my real life.
I’ve thought about using a happiness jar for years. Peg Fitzpatrick and her Happiness Jar Project gave me the push I needed to finally follow through.
I know that I’m more likely to fill my happiness jar if I can see it, so I spent a couple hours making my happiness jar pretty enough to sit on my desk. (Fortunately, that bar is set very, very low.)
I found an old memo pad and cut up several squares of paper, which I put in my desk drawer.
I’m making this project as easy as possible for myself.
I’ve been keeping up with both of these practices for about three weeks now, and I can tell that I’m maintaining a more constant feeling of gratitude and general well-being. And there’s something about going ending my day recalling little good moments that really helps me to remember that my whole life is basically good – even when the pipes freeze.
What’s your gratitude practice?
A member of the Happiness Tribe recently shared her own version of a gratitude practice:
“I have a hard time remembering to journal, so I find that leaving myself little post-it notes around the house whenever something good happens works for me…like sticking them in the pocket of my jeans so I find them later…posting them on the orange juice in the fridge…”
I love that she’s found what works for her – and I love picturing her home covered with post-it notes of gratitude stuck all over the place.
All the evidence – whether scientific or anecdotal – proves that there are concrete benefits to doing it.
A gratitude practice can help you:
- feel more confidence
- achieve your goals
- enjoy a sense of peace
- adapt and persevere when life sucks
That’s a lot of good from a little habit.
Do you have your own gratitude practice? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!