The first encounter that I had with a gratitude practice was when I saw a Facebook post from the author of Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert. She was sharing a large jar that she calls her Happiness Jar which she fills up throughout the year with pieces of paper with one good thing from each day, something as simple as catching all the green lights to work that morning or having a good hair day. It seemed easy enough, and I recalled my grandmother always telling me to be thankful for the little things. I started implementing this practice into my own life and around that same time, I also began to practice yoga (rarely and at a super beginner level).
I truthfully cannot express to you the ways in which my world began to shift. I was a very anxious person whose anxiety manifested frequently as anger. I went to therapy to better deal with how I expressed my anger and it helped, but it was still there, under the surface. If the smallest thing would go 'wrong' in my life, I absolutely panicked. If something broke or something happened to make my day go differently than what I had planned for, it would totally ruin my mood, my day. . . and sometimes week. I let things affect me so incredibly deeply on such a negative level.
When I started incorporating this gratitude practice, all of that began to change. Suddenly, things could go wrong. I allowed space for change, for the Universe. I started to open up to the idea that maybe I didn't have to be in control. Maybe the Universe had my back and had everything taken care of. When I started looking at all the ways that the world is beautiful? Beautiful things started coming my way more frequently. I guess you could try to explain it through the law of attraction or explain it away through some scientific means, but I think it's more magical than that.
This is, at its core, a spiritual practice. It gains momentum over time and with practice. If you are like me you will have days where you can find every reason under the sun why you can't possibly do it. Or you just forget.
Gratitude doesn't seem to come as easily as grumbling and complaining do, and you will likely resist this exercise. Waiting until you feel like doing it is futile. Start today. Practice until it is a habit. Start right now. Sit down with pen and paper or at your computer and start, “I am grateful for …” If you are a frequent Instagram user, I find that using stories is easiest for me. I just list out what I am grateful for while I am laying in bed in the morning or at the end of the day. When you are first beginning, I recommend choosing a set time of day, this will make it easier and so you will not forget. It may seem difficult at first, but something will open inside of you. Just wait. The words will come.
After it becomes a habit, the positivity that you radiate just comes to be second nature. You forget about the negativity you used to carry heavy on your shoulders, in your mind, in your spirit. For example, I fell asleep around 9pm last night and then was wide awake and unable to fall back to sleep this morning at 4am. Instead of getting really upset, tossing and turning, huffing and puffing and starting my day on a negative and sour note... I simply got up, caught up on some school work, had a cup of tea and am writing this for you. It is quiet, all I hear is the ceiling fan and the chirping of birds outside of my window.
I know it can be easy to dismiss this as some ‘hippie-dippie bullshit’, but I am living proof that when you open your mind to the possibility that you can radically change your life for the better. There is even medical evidence that practicing gratitude can rewire our brains and make us not only more psychologically positive but studies have shown that people actually LIVE longer (and obviously happier) lives.
Here are some ways that I practice that are easy and accessible for you to start practicing in your life:
- Write it down - Currently, I am using my IG stories as a place to jot down things I am grateful for, either in the morning and in the evening. You could start a gratitude journal where you write things down or you could even snag the Happiness Jar idea. If you are a sentimental person, it's good to have these to look back on.
- Find prompts - You could order the Gratitude Attitude cards that I have used and love, or you could Google it and I am sure you would get a lot of hits on cards, journals, anything and everything. This is good if you are especially new to the practice OR if you are super busy and need to be held accountable. You can just reach for a card and think about it rather than take the time to write things down.
- When a negative thought comes up - find the positive - let me be clear, life will still be shitty sometimes. Allow yourself to be human. Not-so-great things will come up in your life but it is how you choose to approach them that is important. Sometimes we need to vent and grumble, that is A-Ok. When something comes up whether it be a small thing or a larger thing, sit with it. Allow your mind to process the event and replace the negative feelings with positive. An appointment gets canceled? Does it free up time and money for you? Maybe you get a flat tire, is the car totaled? Can you be thankful to afford a car at all? It's all about shifting.
- Live in the present, live mindfully - This is still tough for me. There is no time but the present. The past nor the future exist. Keep your mind in the here and now. When we split ourselves apart with pieces of us living in the past or in the future, it causes anxiety or depression. Find ways to keep yourself here. Let go of obsessive thoughts about the future. Let go of hurt feelings of the past.
- Don’t stop - I am guilty of slacking off on my gratitude practice after I see results. I started to see these radical changes in my approach to life and over time, I stopped practicing. What happened? I was more negative, my anxiety attacks came back with a vengeance because I was overwhelmed so easily, I was angry towards people that I love. Keep up with your practice, it is so worth it.
If you want to share your gratitude practice with us, please do so! Tag us on social media @bossbabeswv and let us know, what are you thankful for? What can you hear right now that you appreciate? What is something that you enjoyed today? What about West Virginia do you love? Tag a friend and spread the gratitude.
Today, and every day, we are grateful for you!