Like a muscle, your sense of gratitude can be strengthened with practice. One way to harness the positive power of gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal where you write down what you’re grateful for each day. This can be done in a paper journal, or you can download a Gratitude Journal app from iTunes.
In one study, people who kept a gratitude journal reported exercising more, and had fewer visits to the doctor compared to those who focused on sources of aggravation. As Dr. Alison Chen suggests in a recent Huffington Post article, creating a nightly gratitude ritual can be a powerful strategy.
“My colleague has a bedtime routine with her [3-year-old] and it includes recognizing what you are grateful for. When this part of the night comes, you can’t shut him up,” Chen writes.
“There are so many things that we take for granted and when you listen to the long list that a child can come up with you realize the possibilities for gratefulness are limitless!
Take a couple minutes each day to stop and reflect; taking regular pause is an excellent way to bring about more feelings of gratefulness in your life.”
Avoiding getting sucked into bad news is the other side of this equation. You may have to limit your media exposure from time to time if you find it difficult to maintain a positive outlook in the face of worldly horrors.
As Chen states, “Most cover stories are meant to shock, terrify and sweep you into a whirlwind of emotions. They don’t always feature the truth.” Other ways to cultivate a sense of gratitude include:
• Write thank you notes: Whether in response to a gift or kind act, or simply as a show of gratitude for someone being in your life, getting into the habit of writing thank-you letters can help you express gratitude in addition to simply feeling it inside.
• Nonverbal actions: This includes smiles and hugs, both of which can express a wide array of messages, from encouragement and excitement to empathy and support.
• Mind your please and thank-yous: While it’s easy to say words like please and thank you in passing, these courtesies can become potent acknowledgments of gratitude when combined with eye contact and sincerity.
As noted by Chen: “The next time your arms are full and someone holds the elevator doors for you, don’t just glance over your shoulder and say ‘thanks.’ Turn around, look them in their eyes and mean it; it’s the act of generosity that’s important.”
• Prayer and mindfulness meditation: Expressing thanks during prayer or meditation is another way to cultivate gratitude. Practicing “mindfulness” means that you’re actively paying attention to the moment you’re in right now.
A mantra is sometimes used to help maintain focus, but you can also focus on something that you’re grateful for, such as a pleasant smell, a cool breeze, or a lovely memory.
So most importantly, take care of you! You can’t be the one to take care of everyone around you if you are falling apart! Stop analyzing and being so critical of yourself, and take time to focus
on the things that make you unique and
wonderful, because you are!
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