Gratitude in July

 
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What is Gratitude? And I don't mean in a #blessed instagram post kinda way.

Gratitude is such an old (and simple) concept and means being thankful by noticing life’s simple pleasures, and acknowledging everything that you receive. It means learning to live your life as if everything were a “miracle”, and also being aware of how much you’ve actually been given.

By living with gratitude and by giving “thanks” it could, in actual fact, make you happier and more resilient, strengthen bonds, improve your health, and also reduce stress. It gives us the ability to put things into perspective....when things don't go your way, try asking yourself “what can I learn from this”?

Like everything in life, gratitude takes practice, and like everything else in life, it's something we need to work on as individuals. It might seem like a foreign concept in having to remind yourself to be grateful, but when you do it consistently and regularly, you’ll start to feel that those grateful feelings more and more.

In practicing gratitude, you can also start to build resilience. It has been said that by maintaining a positive outlook and expressing gratitude can do wonders for building your emotional resilience. If you make a simple list of things you are grateful for (keep in mind - you don't have to over-think the things you are grateful for) ..it can literally be things like you are grateful for running water or that your heater is working. Try and think about the things that are working well for you, who you are grateful for and what you are looking forward to the next day. Click here to download a resilience journal to get you started.

Before I move onto ways you can start introducing gratitude into your life, I would like to take this opportunity to direct your attention to something extremely worthwhile. It's called The Resilience Project and they engage the community (school kids, corporate groups and sporting teams) in positive and relevant ways to build help resilience and happiness. They have also developed an app... called The Resilience Project App. The app is a well-being journal where the user will be prompted to describe their emotions, keep track of "moments" and ways to practice gratitude. For more information go to; theresilienceproject.com.au

There are many ways to practice gratitude and the most common methods being to write things down. Like I mentioned earlier, gratitude takes practice and starting and regularly keeping a journal can be difficult at first...but (and it's good but) after a while of writing in your gratitude journal every night – it will become a habit. Then all of a sudden you'll start to enjoy writing in your gratitude journal..it will start to feel like a relaxing time where you sit and write about all the things that you are thankful for.

I know, you're reading this and thinking to yourself “ain't nobody got time for that”. Well, I'm here to give you a reason (well eight to be exact) on the benefits of keeping a gratitude journal;

  1. Lower stress levels.
  2. Feel calm at night.
  3. Gain a new perspective of what is important to you and what you truly appreciate in your life.
  4. By noting what you are grateful for, you will gain clarity on what you want to have more of in your life, and what you can cut from you life.
  5. Helps you focus on what really matters.
  6. Keeping a gratitude journal helps you learn more about yourself and become more self-aware.
  7. Your gratitude journal is a safe zone for your eyes only, so you can write down anything you feel without judgement. 
  8. On days when you're feeling down, read back through your gratitude journal to readjust your attitude and remind yourself that you have great people and things in your life.

Okay, so once you've made the commitment to start a gratitude journal...you've dashed down to your local Kmart or Officeworks (these aren't sponsored mentions I promise) to purchase your brand spanking new journal and pen – now what?

Aim to write in your journal every night for 15 minutes before bed – this way you can include things that you are grateful for from that day and by keeping the journal on your bed side table, it will not only remind you to write in it, but just by looking at it, it will serve as reminder on the mindset you are trying to achieve.

There are no rules as to how many things you write about – it's entirely up to you, but aim for at least three to start with and gradually work your way up to about ten (overtime of course). Your journal doesn't have to be a “War and Peace” novel, you can keep it as simple (or as deep as you like). It can just a word..such as “family”...it really is just what you're comfortable with.  

Sometimes a visual reminder helps – it can be either in the form of a “BE GRATEFUL” note on the fridge, computer, mirror...something that you look at everyday. It can also be in the form of a piece of jewellery  – something that will remind you to be grateful and help put things back into perspective (so when poor Harriet from Starbucks forgets to add the extra cream in your decaf, soy latte with an extra shot and cream – you will remember that in the scheme of things....it's not the end of the world).

Spending time in nature can also help us cultivate gratitude! By stepping outside and being in nature can be one of the most rewarding experiences. Taking a leaf out the mindfulness or self care book, being in nature can help us with seeing the “bigger picture” and to be “present”. Take some time out of your day to pop outside, listen to the sounds (bird chirping, kids playing), feel the sun on your skin or the breeze on your face....it's one of the best ways for gratitude to develop naturally.

Why not start your morning with a short walk and be “present” – notice and admire the gardens and how wonderful they look and smell, notice the animals you walk passed and perhaps stop to give a pat, notice your fellow walkers and acknowledge them with a friendly smile or hello? Perhaps you could eat a meal outside....why not have your breakfast on the verandah or at lunch, walk to your closet park to eat there? Ultimately, we need to look up more...one of my favourite lines from The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is “beautiful things don't ask for attention” - this has really stuck with me over the years and it's true – a sunrise or sunset can be one of the most beautiful things we will ever see in our daily life, yet most of us are just too busy to look up or simply take it for granted. Maybe it's time to cast a glance or two to the sky...and by doing this, the universe may just help you appreciate what you have in your life and help put your troubles into perspective.

Once you become comfortable in looking for things to be grateful for, you will find that you begin to appreciate those “simple pleasures” and all those things that you used to take for granted. Gratitude should not be just a reaction to getting what you want, but where you notice the little things and try to look for the good even in unpleasant situations.