I started a daily gratitude practice in earnest once I dedicated more of my life to the examination of living mindfully. Everywhere I looked, there was a new study telling me that the happiest, most successful people meditate and practice gratitude regularly.
It’s a funny phrase, to ‘practice’ gratitude. Just like it’s funny to think about ‘practicing’ meditation or mindfulness. Or yoga or baseball or being loving or being patient or whatever. But in the phrase is a lesson, in two parts: 1. We need to do it on a regular basis to get better and 2. We’re never going to be perfect so we get to keep doing it.
A lovely lesson to learn over and over, if you ask me.
So I started writing down three things I was grateful for, nearly every day. The Five Minute Journal was instrumental in keeping momentum because it’s beautifully designed and sat so nicely next to my bed that I kept picking it up day after day.
This single, small practice changed my life.
That’s a powerful statement. And I know it doesn’t seem like could be much to writing some stuff down every day, but believe me, it works. Research shows it more and more all the time.
My Daily Gratitude Practice
I’ve refined my practice since the first days. I do what fits me and I want to share that with you. It might work for you. You might want to add something. You might want to remove something. Either is OK.
Every day, I answer five prompts, usually in the following order:
1. Why am I here?
My Why is the most important part of my work and life. It’s what gets me out of bed every day, keeps me motivated through the tough times and helps me stay focused on how and what I can do to make an impact.
My life Why: I am here to love. My work why: I help people unleash their awesome on the world.
Every day I write that as a reminder of what it’s all about and use it as a frame for every decision I make thereafter. My off days come when I drift from this focus, every time.
What’s your Why?
2. I am grateful for:
I write at least three things every day that I’m grateful for. They can be the same things over and over (my strong, resilient, health body or the sun shining over us). They can be different things.
You might not be able to come up with very many things to be grateful for at first. That’s OK. Keep going and over time more will come.
Start with 3 things you're grateful for in this moment.
Maybe even try this fun exercise: Come up with 10 things you don’t like and why you’re grateful for them. (Hint: At the very least, they teach us how to live in the midst of things that make us uncomfortable. Now keep going!)
3. What do I want?
There is that old saying that we can’t get to where we want to go if we don’t know where it is, or something like that. I think it’s true.
If I want to wander aimlessly, not stopping to figure out what I want is a guaranteed way to get there. Since I know my Why, finding what I want is easy. I want to share more love. I want to help more people make an impact. And little things add up to get there.
I want my family to live in a safe house. I want to make enough money to provide for them. I want to go on a restful vacation once a year. I want to spend more time with the people I love. It all goes back to Why.
What do you want?
4. How can I win today?
I’ve found that shooting for a single win every day is a surefire way to success. Having a super long to-do list that we just stare at, feeling overwhelmed is a way to not win the day.
Every day I pick one thing I can do that will get me closer to what I want. Sometimes it’s work related - I commit finishing a presentation or publishing a blog post. Sometimes it’s about life - I call my mom. Sometimes it’s more broad - I act gently with everyone I come in contact with today.
One thing. Identify it, commit to it and do it.
5. Daily Affirmation
Affirmations are ways of saying 'I love you’ to ourselves, of creating the lives we want and watching them form. Some examples:
- Today is a great day.
- I accomplish everything I set out to do. Nothing stands in my way.
- I am rich beyond my wildest dreams.
- I am enough. (My personal favorite.)
What are we doing with these? We’re training our brains to believe in the positive. So much of our world is filled with events and stimuli made to bring us down (just check out any news channel). These daily affirmations are our opportunity to shape the world we see into something better, one word at a time.
Write your affirmation daily. Then read it aloud and repeat it anytime you feel lost. It works. I promise.
These are just five things to do daily, most days or even just days you’re struggling, to help you live your most awesome life. You might not notice it at first, but over time everything around you will improve. It’s like magic, except you’re the one making it.