What is a gratitude practice?
You may have heard about gratitude and being grateful for the good things in life. But, have you heard of an actual gratitude practice? Let’s break it down. According to Robert Emmons, one of the the world’s leading scientific expert on gratitude, gratitude has two components. First, he writes, “it’s an affirmation of goodness. We affirm that there are good things in the world, gifts and benefits we’ve received.”
In the second part of the definition, he explains, “we recognize that the sources of this goodness are outside of ourselves. … We acknowledge that other people—or even higher powers, if you’re of a spiritual mindset—gave us many gifts, big and small, to help us achieve the goodness in our lives.”
Actually, there is a third aspect. And that aspect is pleasure. Gratitude comes from the Latin word gratus, which means pleasing or thankful. Gratitude is a pleasurable feeling for what has gone right in life. We actually experience pleasure when we are grateful. This aspect will come into play a little bit further on.
Secondly, a gratitude practice is just that – a practice. A spiritual or self-care practice is something we do on a regular basis. So, a gratitude practice is the act of intentionally feeling gratitude consistently over time. For me, it’s every single day. I’ll explain what it looks like further on.
How I Learned about the Power of Gratitude
The first time I learned about a gratitude practice was when I was watching my favorite podcast. Maya Stojan was a guest on the Aubrey Marcus Podcast. Maya is an actress who has played several significant roles, including on Castle and on Agents of Shield. She attributes part of her success to her gratitude practice. Her very presence was inspiring. Maya has this wonderfully grounded and radiant charisma to her.
During the podcast, Maya described the gratitude practice that she first discovered in the book “The Magic” by Rhonda Byrne.
When I learned how much Byrne’s book had helped Maya to overcome anxiety and to create an amazing life, I knew I had to read it. Before the podcast was even over, I had ordered the Magic from the Kindle store.
What it’s done for me
I have experienced unbelievable results from practicing gratitude. I’m hardly the same person.
- Happier every day – I feel happier now than I ever have, consistently almost every day. I rarely have a bad day. Doing a gratitude practice changes your overall mindset and your underlying thoughts.
- Achieved goals – I have achieved goals and objectives faster and easier than ever. This is due to a change in mindset, but also in the way that I interact with people and to some extent how the universe responds to me.
- Able to reverse bad thoughts – When something bad would happen in the past, I would kind of spiral into a negative or depressed state. Now, I can call upon my gratitude practice to turn it around instantly.
- Lost weight – I’m not even sure how this has happened, but I’ve lost weight since starting the practice. I appreciate my body and have learned some simple exercises to work on my “problem” areas. And I have the energy to get out and exercise. So, I’ve been doing a lot of biking and walking.
- Have a new relationship – A few months after starting the practice, I met a wonderful man. The amazing thing about this was that it had been years since I had been in any sort of a relationship.
- Sleep better – Because I am in a positive state of gratitude, I am able to fall asleep and stay asleep.
- I look different in pictures – Since starting the gratitude practice, I can see a difference in the pictures of me. I’m actually glowing and happy in many of them.
What it looks like
The Gratitude practice described in Byrne’s book is a 28 day practice with a series of exercises. One new exercise per day, along with a core practice of writing down ten things one is grateful for each day. Byrne recommends beginning the day with the practice and I agree. Starting the day with gratitude sets the tone for all kinds of amazing things to happen. It also creates a positive mindset for the day.
I also try to think of a few things I’m grateful for before I go to sleep because it helps me relax and fall into a peaceful sleep state.
So, yes, I sit down and write out 10 things I’m grateful for each day. I strive to find new things to write and mostly focus on the prior day. In the beginning it was really hard, but it has gotten easier and sometimes I fly right through it. I try to actually slow down and feel gratitude for each item. Without fail, I feel better after the practice than before I started.
But, it’s not just a list. I start out by writing: “I am grateful for…” and then I name whatever it is. After that I write because and write why I am grateful for that particular item or event. This makes it even more meaningful and really underscores the importance of the item. Next, Byrne suggests writing “thank you” three times. During this step, I try to really feel the gratitude.
How it works
There is no consensus about how a gratitude actually works. Maybe that’s why Byrne’s book is called The Magic. Magical things do occur as a result. Part of it has to do with the second part of Emmons definition above about “recognizing that the sources of goodness are outside of ourselves.” When you recognize that and become more aware of it, it’s like you are getting more in tune with life. You are in the “flow” state. Perhaps it takes oneself out of the small ego state and connects us to something larger.
Reflecting on things we are grateful for, also elicits a chemical response in the brain. Whether this is the production of dopamine, serotonin, or oxytocin is being debated, but is not as important as recognizing that a physical response is happening. I believe that practicing consistently over time also changes a person’s underlying thoughts and beliefs, creating a shift in mindset that is more positive. In this way, it also increases one’s self-esteem.
How to get started
I think the most important thing in creating a gratitude practice is consistency. It matters less whether you write down 10 things or 5 things as long as you do it consistently. Try to pick something you can realistically stick to. Choose a notebook or journal that you love. Looking at your journal will bring you joy and make it easier to keep the habit up. When I first started, I found a beautiful notebook and enjoyed waking up every morning and doing my practice.
After I filled up the notebook, I decided to design my own journal pages, print them out and put them in a notebook. Finally, I decided to create an actual journal. The journal came out so beautifully, that I decided to share it with the world. I called it a A Grateful Life, as the practice had affected my whole life. Order Here
When to practice
Some people have to leave very early each morning and for them doing the practice first thing is not an option. You might need to do it at lunchtime every day or in the evening. Some people thrive on getting up early. And as I mentioned it’s a powerful way to start the day. But, again, practicing before bed is great because you have the added benefits of a great night’s sleep and that the practice will work on your subconscious while you’re sleeping. The most important thing is to find a time that works for you and that you can stick with.
In summary, a gratitude practice is great for anyone who feels stuck or who wants to make a change in their life. The benefits have been absolutely mind-blowing for me. I am constantly amazed at the good fortune I have. The gratitude practice helps me not only see that the glass is half full, it makes me appreciate everything about the glass! I truly believe that the practice is responsible changing just about every aspect of my life for the better. Is this a guarantee that it will do the same for you? Heck no! But, it might… Try it and see what happens. And let me know how things are going for you. ????
This journal is designed to either be used to collect life’s blessings occasionally or to be used as part of an ongoing gratitude practice.
- Paperback : 150 pages
- ISBN-13 : 979-8678445599
- Product Dimensions : 8.5 x 0.34 x 11 inches
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