Last month, we suggested listing 3 things you were grateful for each day to boost the oxytocin in your brain and ultimately increase overall well-being and happiness. How is that going? Did gratitude go to the wayside after 3 days? Did you find yourself binge watching Netflix rather than reflecting on the parts of your day that brought you joy? That is absolutely acceptable, of course, as relaxing is a form of self-care. However, here are a few tips to refocus, boost your gratitude adjustment, and maintain the helpful and healthy practice for the long haul:
Rather than simply listing general things you’re grateful for, such as “I’m grateful for my dog”, get specific. For instance you could say “I’m grateful that I have a dog that shows me unconditional love and affection”. By being specific, you’re activating more parts of your brain, making a personal connection, and allowing yourself to look at what it is about your dog you’re grateful for. In the toughest of times, when it may be harder to even name one thing to be grateful for, is when it is most important to be specific.
Like any new, healthy habit, it can begin with the excitement of the benefits and become derailed by the obstacles. Just like picking the right time to workout during the day, you can choose the most appropriate and realistic time to be grateful. If you’re exhausted at night, consider practicing your gratitude in the morning. If you’re too busy in the morning, consider taking time at lunch to reflect on your gratitude. Even a mental practice is a practice that can benefit with a scheduled time. Be realistic with what your limitations, obstacles, and expectations will be. Stay strong with the practice; also like fitness, results take time, effort, and dedication.
Repeated actions can sometimes become stale and uninteresting. Help your gratitude practice keep your interest by making it fun! Whether you create a gratitude jar that you fill with your thoughts, write in a gratitude journal, and/or compile a vision board with images of what you’re thankful for, find what is interesting enough to make it fun and inviting to do. Just like there can be a plateau of progress in other practices (fitness, musical instruments, hobbies), keep yourself intrigued and challenged. No challenge, no change.
Include others in your gratitude! Somewhat similar to being held accountable to new year’s resolutions, share your practice with others. Here are a few suggestions:
- Simply ask others what they are grateful for.
- At the dinner table, have everyone go around and share something great about their day.
- If you’re grateful for someone in your life, write them a letter telling them so.
Thanks to Happify Daily for the inspiration, insight, and ideas on maintaining a gratitude practice.