Life has been so stressful lately. It certainly has been a hard year for everyone. Thankfully, starting a gratitude practice can help us to put things in perspective and focus on the positive. Read on to find out how.
Not so long ago, I found myself in a place where I was continually focusing on negative circumstances. All I could see were the scary, negative things…even when there were plenty of positive things happening around me, too.
I started to become fearful, angry, frustrated, and anxious. Then I started thinking primarily about all the what-ifs. The it-could-happens. The worst-case scenarios. And none of the situations my mind conjured up were good. At all. Let’s not go there…amiright?
While I didn’t know why that was happening, I did know that my mental health was starting to suffer. I wonder if you can relate.
So, I started looking into why this was happening. I just wanted to find out what was wrong with me! What was making me so negative-focused? And guess what? I found out there was actually nothing wrong with me at all!
It turns out, we all have a hard-wired natural inclination to be hyper-aware of the negative aspects of life. No joke. It’s called the negativity bias, and it also predisposes us to replay those negative scenarios in our minds. If you want to know more about the negativity bias, head over here.
Equipped with that knowledge, I realized that I had to find a way to interrupt the negativity loop. I needed to get my thoughts back under control. And fast. But how?
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The Benefits of Gratitude
I continued digging, and learned that cultivating a simple, mindful gratitude exercise is one of the best ways to outsmart that negativity bias! I decided to go all in, and that led me to start looking into other benefits of gratitude.
Did you know that numerous scientific studies have proven that gratitude has a multitude of benefits? It’s true. These benefits include overcoming this negativity bias and improved sleep, better stress modulation, a decrease in anxiety, and even improved cardiac function! Check out my last post if you want to learn a bit more about nine of these scientifically proven benefits of gratitude.
Why You Should Focus on Gratitude
A gratitude practice is so important because our thoughts really do matter. We notice more of whatever it is we dwell upon. So when I was dwelling on the negative, I was mostly only noticing the negative things around me. And of course, that just made me more anxious, angry, frustrated, and fearful. It’s a vicious cycle.
However, when we focus on the positive, on being grateful for all our blessings–big or little– we start to notice more of those positives. And that can make us happier, more content, and more joyful.
“Gratitude is a powerful catalyst for happiness. It’s the spark that lights a fire of joy in your soul.”– Amy Collette
We Can Change What We Allow Ourselves to Dwell Upon and Gratitude Practice Can Help
Although it felt like my thoughts were totally out of my control, I slowly brought them back under my power.
It took time and included becoming more mindful, improving my self-talk, and paying attention to the words I was speaking out loud. While we can’t completely control our every thought, we do have quite a bit of control over what we allow ourselves to dwell upon.
And by dwelling on the positive, by choosing GRATITUDE daily, we begin to notice all those positive circumstances and situations that are around us. And we beat down that dang negativity bias. #winwin
When Should You Practice Gratitude?
When is the best time to practice gratitude? In the morning? In the evening?
Starting the day with gratitude is an excellent way to set yourself up for a more optimistic day. By starting your first few moments considering all the people, circumstances, and situations you’re thankful for, you can set your mind up to notice the positive more than the negative.
Conversely, gratitude journaling before bed has proven to improve sleep, including the time it takes to fall asleep, sleep quality, and sleep duration. Sign me up for that!
In my experience, there is no wrong time to choose to be grateful.
Grab my FREE Gratitude Journal PDF here:
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How Often to Practice Gratitude?
Additionally, it’s important to keep in mind that it’s not a one-time choice, and BAM, we’re controlling our thoughts and are feeling oh-so-grateful. Nope. Honestly, for me, it’s not even just a daily choice. It’s a choice that probably needs to be made every.single.moment.
I’ve found that the more I focus on my blessings, on what I’m thankful for, on the silver linings, the more grateful I become. The less anxious I feel. The more positive situations I notice. The more joyful I feel. It’s the opposite of the vicious negativity cycle. It’s a positivity cycle. And who wouldn’t want some of that?
Need help getting started? No problem, I’ve got you covered!
Keep reading for some simple gratitude practices that you can easily incorporate into your life.
My 7 Favorite Gratitude Practices
Here are some of my favorite ways to keep gratitude front and center each day.
1. Start a Gratitude Journal
This activity is probably the best-known of all the gratitude practices. You simply take some time to write, in some depth, about a few things that happened that you’re grateful for. You want to dig deep here so that you’re not writing the same things every day. When you’re writing, also pay attention to the feelings that your gratitude brings up.
You can buy or make a pretty journal for this purpose or just use a small notebook. There are plenty of specialized gratitude journals available as well, and they range the gamut from fancy to simple.
Here’s the gratitude journal I’m currently loving. I keep it on my nightstand and write in it each morning and evening.
Don’t enjoy writing in a book every day? No worries! Check out my second tip below.
2. Use a Gratitude App
Most of us carry our cell phones or mobile devices with us wherever we go. Although there are downsides to using our devices for so many things, there are great perks to it, too! For example, they’re the perfect place to keep a portable gratitude journal. Whether you decide to just keep a running log in your Notes app or go higher-tech with one of the many apps available, you can’t go wrong.
3. Diffuse and Apply Essential Oils as You Meditate on Your Day
Diffusing and applying essential oils is a simple, yet powerful practice! This is probably my favorite gratitude practice. It’s ideal because can be used in conjunction with any of the others on the list. Some of my favorite oils for this purpose are Frankincense, Stress Away, Peace and Calming, Joy, Abundance, Believe, and, of course, Gratitude.
To diffuse, simply drop several drops of the oil of choice into the diffuser chamber and add water. Relax and enjoy the benefits while you really focus on moments of gratitude. The number of drops of essential oil and the amount of water you add will depend on the size of your diffuser.
To apply the oils, just put a couple of drops into your open palm, rub your hands together to activate the oils, and apply to your neck, temples, over your heart, or on your wrists. Then you can loosely cup your hands over your nose and breathe in the amazing scents. Additionally, I love to put one drop of Frankincense or Elemi right on the crown of my head.
Remember to dilute the oils according to the directions on the labels. And above all, be sure that the essential oils you are using are pure and not adulterated.
4. Keep a Gratitude Box
Keeping a gratitude box is a fantastic way to focus on the positive! The box itself can be fancy or simple. It actually doesn’t even need to be a box…you could use a jar, a pretty gift bag, or whatever you like.
All you need to do is keep some blank slips of paper and a pen or pencil, (or an assortment of colorful markers if you love a pop of color as I do) nearby. Whenever you pass the box, pause for a moment to remember your blessings. Jot down whatever comes to mind, and put the slip in the box. I like to record the date on each slip.
A fun tradition is to read through each of these gratitude slips on New Year’s Eve. It’s a great reminder of the many blessings that filled the year!!
5. Schedule a Time for Your Gratitude Practice
Let’s face it, sometimes we start the morning with great intentions, but then realize partway through that we haven’t been keeping track of our thoughts or noticing anything positive. Or is that just me?
Setting a “Gratitude Reminder” can help you build the habit of pausing for a moment during the day to notice your blessings. I realize this one may sound strange, but I promise it really does work.
It’s simple to set a recurring reminder on your cell phone. It could be as simple as a pop-up reminder to “Take a moment to be grateful!” Or it could be paired with a gratitude quote or even a positive affirmation.
For example, I have a reminder that pops up on my phone with the words: My Heavenly Father tenderly loves me! from John 16:27 AMP. This helps remind me that I am loved and spurs me to reflect on and express gratitude for the ways I have experienced love that day.
6. Pray or Meditate
Another simple way to focus on gratitude is to pray or meditate. Take a moment to say a prayer of thanks as soon as you notice a blessing. You could also schedule a few moments each day to stop and say a prayer of thanks and/or meditate on your many blessings. This could be paired with any or all of the other practices we’ve discussed. I love to breathe in some Frankincense during this practice.
7. Keep a Running Gratitude List
Keeping a running gratitude list is a great alternative to the more formal gratitude journal. For this practice, all you really need to do is add to your list each day. You can keep it simple and jot down 3-5 circumstances, people, or things you’re grateful for from that day. Then, just add to it each day.
You could make or purchase a pretty journal for this purpose. Or you could go old school and use a composition notebook. You could even use one of those little shopping list notepads. Bonus points if there’s an uplifting quote on each sheet.
Don’t Give in to Overwhelm: Start with One
I’ve shared quite a few simple gratitude practices here, but there’s no need to be overwhelmed. Just start with one practice that resonates with you. Once you’re comfortable with that one, you could always add another if you’d like.
Remember, it may take time to start to see a big change in your thought patterns. Most likely you’ve been thinking the same way for years. So give it some time. Once you’ve been doing at least one of these practices consistently, I bet you’ll find yourself noticing little and big blessings all around you!
One Last Note About Adding Essential Oils
Diffusing and applying essential oils can make your gratitude practice even more powerful and meaningful. Make sure you choose your essential oils wisely. It’s important to find a company you trust that provides pure, pesticide-free, potent essential oils that are safe to use in your home and around your children and pets.
Want to Learn More About Gratitude?
Check out my first post, Benefits of Gratitude: 9 Scientifically Proven Ways Gratitude Can Improve Your Wellness.
If you’re a parent looking for ways to incorporate gratitude with your children, I have a great resource for you. My friend Christy at Happy Homeschooling Hive shares some great tips that you will love, even if you don’t homeschool. Head here to read more: Gratitude Practice for Homeschoolers.
Do you have any other tips that help you keep gratitude in the front of your mind each day? Comment below, I’d love to hear your favorite gratitude practices!
Don’t forget to grab your FREE gratitude journal PDF!
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