It’s that time of year again. The time that some of us look forward to and really enjoy, but others of us dread and just can’t wait for it to be all over! In an ideal world, the holiday season is the perfect time to start a habit of practicing daily gratitude. After all, Thanksgiving is all about expressing how grateful we are for the blessings we have received in our lives. And yet, many people lose site of this and make the Thanksgiving holiday, and in fact, the entire holiday season, about other things entirely. They instead choose to focus on:
- planning and cooking elaborate meals, sometimes purely in an effort to impress others and to top what someone else prepared the previous year;
- eating much more than they know they should, ignoring the inevitable weight gain that always follows;
- fretting about the weight that they are gaining and worrying unnecessarily about how they will ever be able to get rid of it;
- shopping for gifts for too many people that they may or may not even want to shop for, but feel obligated to do so (and sometimes feel resentful for it);
- spending more money than they know they should, sometimes even getting in debt and stressing about how they will ever pay it off;
- dealing with guests and relatives with whom they may not necessarily want to spend time, but feel like they have to;
- managing the stress created by all of the above.
When you read this list, do you relate to some of these items? Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions? Maybe one of them really stands out for you. Or maybe you can actually relate to each of them, but to varying extents. Sometimes even if you personally aren’t focusing on one of these items, someone else in your household or close circle of friends is, and that is also having a negative impact on you.
Unfortunately, these have become habits for some of us and are an inevitable part of the holiday season. But the good news is they don’t have to be. By learning some few simple steps, we can instead focus on practicing gratitude and making this the perfect time to create a new habit that will carry into the new year.
How to Start a Daily Gratitude Practice
Practising gratitude is easy. And if done regularly, it will quickly become a pleasant habit that will help bring more joy into your daily life.
To begin, set aside a few minutes at the end of each day. It will literally only take a few minutes, and is best done just before bedtime. You will notice that it will put you in a more relaxed and content state that will help you have a more pleasant sleep.
Take a moment, pause, sit quietly and relax. Make a mental inventory of your life and all that is wonderful about it. No matter what our situation or where we find ourselves, there is always something that is good and for which we can express gratitude. It can be small things; it can be obvious, mundane, everyday occurrences. Sometimes those are the things that can bring us the most joy if we appreciate them properly. Go over what happened during in your day and look for those small pleasures. Maybe you were fortunate enough to have a big pleasure. The size and significance of the pleasure aren’t important. What matters most is how grateful we are for it.
When you are done, make a list of five things for which you are grateful on this day. It can be a mental list, or you can write it down and begin keeping a gratitude journal. As you go through your list, relish those things and recall how each of them made you feel this day.
If you can’t come up with five things on your first try, don’t worry. There is no point in trying to force it; it is meant to be a relaxing and pleasurable practice. As you spend more time looking for the beautiful and wonderful things in your life, you will become better at recognizing them.
Let me share with you an example of a recent event that might have gone unappreciated if I had not been looking for gratitude in my life. I recently went on an errand to buy razor blades. I don’t know about you, but I always feel a little bit ripped off when I buy razor blades. They are so unreasonably expensive that when I am down to my last one, I keep using it much longer than I should just to put off the unpleasant experience of shelling out over $20 for just four blades! Anyway, I decided for no particular reason to check the mailbox before leaving for the store. And lo and behold, to my amazement, there was this bright, colorful mailer from Gillette with a $12 coupon for (you guessed it) razor blades! But that was only the beginning. When I got to the store, I found out that not only were the blades I wanted on sale, but there was an additional offer for a $10 coupon when spending $30 or more on Gillette products! Let me tell you, that shopping experience was on the top of my gratitude list that night. It wasn’t so much the money that I saved (which was great), but it was more the fact that what is normally an unpleasant experience was turned into the highlight of my day.
So take advantage of this special time of year to start your own gratitude practice. It takes so little effort and will bring you so many benefits. You will see how quickly and easily it will become part of your daily habits and one of the times of your day that you will look forward to the most.
About the Author:
Hello there! I am Daniela, one of the authors for Skilled at Life (www.skilledatlife.com). I am a wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. I have had the very good fortune to have lived in four countries on four continents, and to be exposed to a wealth of different cultures. Through my varied and rich life experience, I have learned that there is at least one universal truth: we all need the same life skills in order to be happy, regardless of who we are or where we live. It isn’t a very long or complicated list of skills, and many of the items on the list are pure common sense. But unfortunately, it is a list with which many of us are not familiar. That is what led me to develop Skilled at Life. My goal is to share this list with as many people as possible and provide them with the simple life skills that will ensure that they not only reach their greatest potential but also find and maintain happiness along the way.