My Updated Gratitude Practice

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014

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.

Journaling

Journaling

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.

HappinessJar

Happiness Jar

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!

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  1. Emily says:

    LOVE this Britt. Excited to see what comes about as the result of this daily practice. xo
    Emily’s most recent post: Monday Motivation: Airplanes take off against the wind…

  2. Sharon says:

    I used to keep a gratitude journal daily. I need to start again, as it really is a good practice to be in.

    When I used to do it, I noticed that some days it was really hard to find things for which I was grateful that day. (Trust me: when you write every day for months, you get tired of using “my good health, my family, my friends” and the like over and over.) But I think those were the days when it was all the more important to write.

    • Britt Reints says:

      I try to focus on specific things from that day, so that helps – but some days it’s hard to think of more than 1 or 2 noteworthy moments!

  3. Megan says:

    I need to start a concrete practice. I am in the habit of saying thank you for all the good in my life before bed and of finding “the good thing about today first thing in the morning , but I don’t look at specific things that happened during the day.

    I may try the jar for starters – it’s easier to write it in the moment than remember it later.

    Great ideas.
    Megan’s most recent post: Stairway To…

    • Britt Reints says:

      I have found that appreciating the really specific things seems to have a more significant impact than a general “thanks for all the good”.

  4. el-e-e says:

    Hmm. I like the idea of post-it notes around the house. I’m all about the Happier app as you know, but I do think there’s something to be said for sharing the gratitude with the whole family. I’ve thought of my gratitude as a personal thing – maybe the “journal” apsect has me thinking “private” – but teaching our kids to see and be grateful for the little joys is a good thing, too. Thx as always for this insight! Might have to try it.

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