Breathing Space March 2023
Gratitude Is a Skill
Thousands of studies show that developing a grateful mindset is the most direct path to helping you feel happier, less anxious and stressed, and more fulfilled by your daily experiences, your work, and your relationships. However, you have to practice it—actively, intentionally, consistently.
And the awesome thing is that every single time you do, you feel good. In fact, the moment you begin to think of something you’re grateful for, your brain releases dopamine, which is a neurotransmitter that makes you feel good. Every time you pause to appreciate something and share your gratitude with another person, your brain releases serotonin, another feel-good neurotransmitter.
And the benefits of a gratitude practice extend far beyond ourselves: when you share your gratitude with others, you help them feel seen, valued, and elevated, and you help yourself feel more closely connected to people in your life.
Can you make a commitment to yourself to practice gratitude at least once a day for the next 10 days?
To help you, here are some of my favorite gratitude practices. Perhaps you want to try one every day for the next 10 days to see which ones feel most natural and which ones you want to stick with regularly. Or maybe there’s one that’s calling your name and you want to practice it daily for the next 10 days.
Whatever feels good, do it—but hold yourself accountable to your commitment to begin to practice your gratitude skills consistently for the next 10 days.
Daily Gratitude Bookends
Begin and end your day by writing down a few things you’re grateful for. Literally bookend your day with gratitude. Even better, how about sharing what you’re grateful for with someone else, like a family member, friend, or coworker, in person or via text or email? Remember to be as specific as possible and don’t neglect really small moments.
When something stresses you out—too much traffic, an annoying colleague—use it as a reminder to practice gratitude. You don’t have to be grateful for whatever is stressing you out (I’m not going to be cruel and make you do that), but use it as a nudge to pause, take a breath, and think of something, however small, that you are grateful for in that moment. When you do this, you prevent your brain from going into a negativity spiral, where one annoying thought brings on another, and another, and another, until you have a really rough day.
Gratitude Meeting Bookends
Begin team meetings at work with a gratitude moment, either sharing something you appreciate or expressing specific and genuine gratitude toward someone. End the meeting the same way, by asking if someone else would like to express their gratitude. If it feels awkward, it’s okay—you’re doing something new and a bit vulnerable, so it’s normal for it to feel a little weird. You can say something like: “I thought we’d try this new practice I read about…”
Say Thank You and Mean It
Make an intention for an entire day to find several opportunities to pause and express genuine thanks to the person you’re interacting with—whether it’s someone you know or someone you don’t know. Take a moment, pause, look them in the eye, smile, and say thank you. If there is something specific you want to thank them for, do it, go the extra step, that’s awesome. If this seems too simple to be meaningful, just try it.
Notice the Good
When you see or talk to someone for the first time today—a family member, colleague, a relative you see once a year who annoys you endlessly every time you do, someone you’re meeting for the first time—set your intention to notice one thing about them you appreciate. Maybe it’s their enthusiasm, something they’re wearing, how they make you feel, their sense of humor, anything goes. When you begin your interaction by focusing on something you appreciate versus something you want to criticize, not only do you feel better about your interaction, but you allow yourself and the other person to have a more human, open connection.
Think of someone who makes your life great, someone without whom your life would be less fun or warm or wonderful. It might be a family member, someone at work, a friend, or someone else. Now take out your phone and send them a message, telling that person that you appreciate them and why.
Imagine Life Without This
Think of something in your life that you tend to take for granted. It can be as simple as running water or groceries in your fridge, that you get to listen to music you enjoy or read books that inspire you. Now consider, for a moment, what your life would be like if you didn’t have it?
If you’re feeling down or caught in a negativity spiral, pause and challenge yourself to find something you can appreciate within your experience, however small. For example, if you’re sad about being sick and missing out on what you would rather be doing, can you feel grateful that you have medicine or a comfortable place to recover or people around to help care for you?
Source: Nataly Kogan