It's fair to say that gratitude practice has drastically changed my life.
The first encounter that I had with anything like this 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. 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).
Through posting about this happiness jar, I met Kelly who some of you may know as @_takingmylifeback on Instagram. I happened to win one of her giveaways that were Gratitude Attitude cards (http://www.ahpositivepublishing.com/products/the-gratitude-attitude-builder) and I started to incorporate those into my every day.
I truthfully cannot express to you the ways in which my world began to shift. I was a very angry person for the better part of my life, I went to therapy to better deal with how I expressed my anger but it was still there, under the surface. I would also say that I had pretty bad anxiety/ panic disorder. 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 changed. 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.
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 9 pm last night and then was wide awake and unable to fall back to sleep this morning at 4 am. 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 whir of the heater and the chirping of the birds outside.
I know it sounds like 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? Your life will radically change for the better. There is actually sound 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, both 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 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. Not-so-great things will come up in your life but it is how you choose to approach them that is important. 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.