It’s Thanksgiving week which means we’re all thinking about one of two things – the food or what we’re thankful for (or perhaps the devastating effects of colonization, but I’ll leave it up to you). In any case, gratitude should be a part of this week, and some would argue that it should be a part of daily life. Gratitude is definitely having a moment in the self-care space with people spouting all kinds of practices surrounding it that promise to increase happiness and decrease stress. There are multiple different ways to integrate it into daily life that can be far more impactful than just spending a few days on it each year.
In my opinion, the thing people most often miss about gratitude is the feeling of intention, which can be applied to a much wider range of things than the big ideas. Of course, I’m enormously grateful for my loving family, my friends, my health, the fact that I have no problem affording all the basic necessities in life. But those are easy to think about – because they are so ever present. So I stop actively thinking about how much they do for me. They are huge facets of my life and I would sound insane if I said I wasn’t grateful for them but they aren’t the only things to be grateful for.
What about all the little things? I personally prefer spending a little time each day being grateful for little things. I spend maybe a minute every day thinking about three small things I’m grateful for and, I hate to sound cliche, it does improve my day.
For example, on Thursday of last week, I wrote down that I was grateful for having a good hair day, that my sister always picks up the phone when I need to cry, and I was grateful for that the sun had come out that day. These are random, the first things that came to mind as I started the exercise, nothing groundbreaking.
But the reason this works for me is that throughout the day I inevitably get stressed a little bit – I’m high strung what can I tell you – and thinking about these little things in the morning gives me something to come back to when I start to get angry or annoyed. Don’t get me wrong, I still let the negative emotions flow, but I don’t spiral because my gratitude practice produces this little nagging voice at the back of my mind that is actually positive. I’ll be frustrated at the slow response from a team member and the voice will say ‘yeah that sucks, but look outside. Look at how the sun sparkles off the lake’ and then I can’t really marinate in my misery quite as well with that little thought peeking through.
That is the power of gratitude. If you find new things to be grateful for every day then the feeling retains its impact. You don’t feel the need to roll your eyes at yourself for picking the same things. You’re allowed to be grateful for the same things all the time, but you’re also allowed to be grateful for things that only apply to you – the seemingly small things, the seemingly insignificant things. Because if you allow yourself to intentionally feel for them, you may end up with more positivity than you thought.