Gratitude can easily get dismissed. After all, it’s everywhere. The articles are especially rampant during the holiday season. And after a while, all those tips and tricks and tools turn to noise. Noise that feels like an empty trend. Noise that you’re choosing to ignore and pass on. But cultivating thankfulness is helpful (when you genuinely feel thankful; it’s totally OK if you don’t).
Yes, there’s lots of research to substantiate the power of gratitude. But the proof lies inside our hearts—when we feel sincere appreciation for someone or something, we savor our joy. We breathe deeper. We’re more thoughtful and more careful with our words. We look at life through a more curious and compassionate lens. We protect what’s important to us. We actually realize what’s important to us.
In her beautiful, hardcover journal, Alexsys Thompson features an inspiring gratitude practice. First she suggests listing one to three things that we’re grateful for. Next she suggests choosing an intention for the day, a word that captures how we’d like to experience the hours. Then she suggests jotting down behaviors that support our intention—what we’ll do that day to make our gratitude and intention become actions. (She also includes a powerful exercise for the evening.)
I absolutely love this. Because this kind of practice helps us to build meaningful days. It helps us think through what we want our days to look like and feel like, and how we’d like to make that a reality. Of course, we can’t control many circumstances and outcomes. We can’t control the weather or traffic patterns. We can’t control what others think or do.
But we can control our perceptions and reactions. We can control how we treat ourselves, and what we do for ourselves. And that starts with spending about 10 minutes every morning quietly reflecting on what you’re thankful for and how you’d like to navigate your day.
Thompson, a coach and speaker, shares an example in her journal. She writes that she’s grateful for coffee on the patio and time to journal; the opportunity to share solutions with a potential client; and her dog’s “love you no matter what” attitude. Her intention for the day is “accepting.” Her supporting behaviors are remaining curious when talking to her client, colleagues and family about what they need. “When I feel myself jumping in with a solution, I will gently remind myself I am here to learn not solve in the moment. If I catch myself offering solutions, I will pull back and return to being curious.”
You might write that you’re grateful that your legs have taken you on several stunning, soothing walks the past week. Your intention for the day is “self-compassion,” which you’ll express by talking to yourself with kindness; and identifying and meeting your needs throughout the day.
You might write that you’re grateful for the (seemingly) little things. A cinnamon raisin bagel. Hot tea. Your hands. A soft, cozy coat. A rainbow sky. Your intention is to notice these tiny things even more, so you jot down the word “attention.” And you decide that you’ll pay greater, closer attention by pausing for a minute on your way to work to breathe in the breeze and look up at the sky; and pausing at the first few bites of breakfast, lunch and dinner to really taste your food.
Thompson includes this quote from John F. Kennedy: “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words but to live by them.” How will you live by yours?
What are you grateful for today? What is your intention for the day? How would you like to follow through on that intention?
Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash.