With yet another successful Halloween behind us, we are officially entering the holiday season and thus the onset of all things gratitude.
I am clearly a big fan gratitude. In fact you can check out 3 tips to practicing daily gratitude which I posted almost a year ago. However, as the holidays roll around, it seems to take on an almost a forced and manic nature where it becomes more about an outward exhibition vs. as inward reflection and appreciation.
The truth is, when practiced from a place of authenticity, gratitude can actually be a very powerful tool to being more present and tapping into heart-centered awareness. But like with any practice, it requires a gentle willingness and commitment to really experience the benefits of being more aware, loving, and kind to ourselves and others.
About 6 months ago, in an effort to formalize my gratitude practice, I started keeping a gratitude log. While I always try to end my day in gratitude before I fall asleep, this provided an opportunity to be very intentional and specific. As a result, I feel much more grounded in my own awareness around appreciation of myself and others. Different from a journal which can be a great outlet to explore various thoughts, emotions and feelings as they arise, a gratitude log is a tangible action that we can take that literally requires less than a minute. I know some people have a serious aversion to journaling, so again, think of this more as a heart-centered check-in with yourself. Here are a few tips to get started.
1. Choose 3 things to be grateful for: Try to keep it short, sweet and from the heart. You can choose whatever comes to mind. However, if you need some prompting, I like to choose one thing about myself (i.e. I’m grateful for working out today and feeling strong), one thing about someone else (i.e. I’m grateful for the team for an awesome presentation), and one thing or person I’m experiencing some frustration with (i.e. I’m grateful that the recent rains highlighted a roof leak that I can now deal with). Even if it feels silly, surrounding the frustrating experience with a present moment perspective can help us stay focused and less likely to get pulled into our heads with future drama that doesn’t exist.
2. Identity the best “tool” that will work for you: I like to keep a very small notebook by my bedside. This notebook by moleskin is my favorite. Be sure and keep a pen you love attached to the notebook (I’m a fine tip sharpie fan). You could also use the notes section on your phone. Another technique is to send yourself an email before you go to bed with your three things, so it is one of the first things you see every morning when you check your email.
3. Choose the time of day that works best for you: If you already have a meditation practice, you can tack this on to the beginning or end. If you don’t yet have a meditation practice, this alone is a great way to cultivate a daily habit. Similar to practicing meditation, ideal times of day to log your gratitude include: first thing in the morning, right before lunch, happy hour, or before bed which is my preference.
4. Commit to daily entries: Even if you miss a few days here and there, by making the commitment, the intention will still be there and that counts. Sometimes I’m simply too tired or traveling or some other circumstance and I will miss actually writing in the log. But I’ll still say the three things in my head. But if I forget, it’s ok.
By starting this practice now and sticking with it until the end of the year, you are more likely to find yourself in an authentic place of truth, love, lightheartedness and grace towards yourself and others when the hoopla of the holidays arrive. And really, isn’t that what the holidays are ideally all about?