This time of year always brings to mind the importance of gratitude. With Thanksgiving around the corner, it’s a wonderful time to reflect on what this means, why this is important to our mental health, and most importantly, HOW we can become more gratuitous.
First, let me remind you that gratitude is something we practice! Building your capacity for gratitude is not difficult, it just requires commitment. It’s like working out! When we aspire to build muscle strength, we need to be persistent with weight lifting, nourishment, and rest. When we take time to notice life’s little wins, we become increasingly more aware of the good all around us. Practicing gratitude does not suggest that we are not already grateful. We live the majority of our lives on auto pilot, which takes us away from the present moment. Being present is a hallmark trait of practicing gratitude... they go hand in hand.
So, how do we become more gratuitous beings? Here are some simple tips:
1.) KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL! I often suggest this to my patients, because it’s nice to be able to look back upon. You can make lists, find prompts, or just simply free-write.
2.) SAY THANK YOU! This one seems simple, but consider for a moment just how many times a day you say those words without even thinking about it. Being more aware of these moments allows us to become more truly grateful. Actually pause, and consider why you are thanking someone, and what exactly you are thanking them for. This mere awareness is a tremendous way to build an attitude of gratitude!
3.) NAME THREE THINGS each morning that you are grateful for. Aside from being a nice way to start your day, this practice helps to build gratitude because it causes us to focus on the present moment. Don’t overlook the small things - the sun shining through your window in the morning, the cool breeze hitting your face on a fall day, morning cuddles from a loved one!
As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “The little things? The little moments? They aren’t little.” By focusing our attention on these little things, we adjust what we focus on and change how we perceive the world around us. Rather than moving around in auto-pilot, we slow down and increase well being and overall satisfaction.