The holidays have passed and now we can take a collective deep breath. Whether the holidays are a time of running around, or a rejuvenating break from work, the end of the calendar year can be a blur.
While January is culturally a time of “re-starts” and resolutions, it’s important to remember that, in the cycle of nature, we are still in the deep, reflective, nourishing time of winter. This season is a time of going deep within, to restore our reserves, but also to discover the person we want to emerge during the Spring. Like a flower breaking through the earth, we can be fresh and renewed after a winter of delving deep.
One practice that can be delicious to start in winter (and continue throughout the year!) is a gratitude practice. There is much evidence showing that people who have a more positive outlook on life have improved health, relationships, resilience to life’s challenges, and attract more of what they desire in life. A gratitude practice easily shifts one into a positive frame of mind, that can radiate into all areas of their life.
How to get started with your gratitude practice
Recognizing areas of your life that you have gratitude for and expressing thanks can take many forms. However, one of the best ways to start is with a morning or evening journal entry. This can be as little as 5 minutes, but the more you do it, I think you’ll find there are days you want to prolong this wonderful time you’ve carved out just to give thanks.
Here is an easy outline to use when you’re starting off:
- Find a place where you can focus – away from television, computers, or other forms of distraction
- Put your phone on silent. This is your time.
- Take a few deep breaths to bring yourself fully into the moment. You want to be able to fully connect to your gratitude, feel it in your body.
- Write the statement “I am grateful for….”
- List at least 10 things/people/places/phenomena you are grateful for
- If only for 2 seconds each, pause to feel gratitude for each item. Smile. Repeat.
- You can refer to your list between journaling sessions (i.e. at night before bed if you are a morning writer) to combat stress or combat pessimism.
- Try to find new inspiration each day. Of course, gratitude for family and loved ones might show up on every list, which is wonderful. However, you might also find yourself inspired by small things, like a great night of sleep, a delicious and leisurely breakfast, or a smile from a stranger that made you feel seen.
Taking your practice to the next level
Once you’ve got a once per day journaling practice going strong, you can try adding in other elements to enrich your practice. These will continue to build a positive outlook.
- Add a visual component to your practice: when you read the things you are thankful for, take a few moments to close your eyes, bring to mind the subject of your gratitude, and connect feeling to that.
- Monitor your mind during your day for negative thoughts, beliefs and ideas. Take a moment to squelch them right then and there. Simply restate the negativity with a positive spin. Your thoughts can become your reality. If you’re interested in the science behind this, give this podcast on epigenetics a listen.
- After your gratitude list is done, try using the same statement of “I am grateful for…” and list want you’d like to see in your life as if you’ve already got it. For example: “I am grateful for a new job that is meaningful to me”. Visualizing what this looks and feels like for you can be powerful fuel.
The proof is in the pudding as they say. While there are many ways to feel gratitude in your life, a simple journaling practice can be impactful and requires very little time and effort. Try setting a simple goal of daily journaling for 1 week. Extend the commitment from there and soon you’ll have your own tailored practice that works for you. Feel free to play with the framework as your inspiration guides you, there’s no wrong way to bring gratitude into your life.