Once you’ve started your daily gratitude ritual, then the REAL fun can begin – expanding gratitude into other parts of your day. As your daily habit of documenting your blessings starts to strengthen those benefit-finding neuro-pathways, you’ll start noticing more to appreciate. Let it expand further by trying some of the following:
Family mealtime gratitude. Dinner time is gratitude time at our house. We go around the table and share one or two ‘thankfuls’ or high points from the day. It’s good for us to share something from our days and it helps reshape the kids neuro-pathways towards benefit-finding.
Of course, being kids, they sometimes resist; we try not to ‘force’ them to find something to be grateful for since that’s probably NOT the best way to increase family happiness ;). But we keep modeling the practice even when they don’t participate.
Some families practice this with their kids before bedtime stories instead. This mealtime strategy can work with partners, roommates, even cats.
Get a gratitude buddy. One of my clients shares gratitude lists with her sister in a distant city via email a couple times a week. Not only does it enhance their connection, it’s also a great way to consolidate her “Best of” from the week and she gets a double dose of positivity – one from writing hers and one from reading her sister’s celebrations. It also motivates them to connect on the phone or plan trips to see one another. It’s a win-win-win!
Transform complaining. Most of us are really good at finding something wrong with any particular moment. I work at monitoring that complaining side of me, and whenever I catch myself falling into those old ”Ugh, of course this is going wrong,” habits, I specifically look around for something I can appreciate at that moment.
When stuck in traffic, how lucky I am not to be part of the accident slowing us down, and I get to finish another chapter of the audiobook! When it seems like I have to wash every pan in the cupboard, aren’t I lucky that my wife loves to cook? When the computer craps out, what a good excuse to meditate, take a walk or play Legos?
Bring heartfelt gratitude into our everyday ‘thank yous’. In our culture, we say thank you all the time. But it is often a rote comment with little meaning. Try imbuing those little thank-yous with some real energy and meaning.
When someone holds open a door for you, REALLY notice it. Slow down a bit to feel the appreciation well up in you, then look them in the eye and smile and offer a heartfelt thank you. Let those little moments be time to appreciate and connect with those helping you. When you start to look, you’ll notice these things happen all the time.
Allow yourself to receive thanks. One of the best gifts we can give someone is to accept their heartfelt thank yous. Often in this culture, we deflect those thank yous, minimize our contribution or — worse — look uncomfortable, which inadvertently increases negativity. Now the thanker worries that they said something wrong or offended you in some way. Next time someone thanks you for something you did, accept their gratitude. Let it fill you up. Appreciating their gratitude is an incredible gift.
Write your thanks. My wife makes a habit of sending out a few short handwritten notes or emails each week to colleagues at work, appreciating their contribution.
Not only does it make her reflect on the varied and often unnoticed contributions of those around her – “I really appreciate that you took the time to explain the new policy,” or “Thank you for arranging all the materials for that training” – but she gets pleasure from knowing how meaningful such appreciation is, judging by the number of her notes she sees posted or displayed on people’s desks. (Do you keep a file or box with the thank you notes you’ve received? Or post them where you see them every day? You should!)
As you expand your gratitude into more parts of your day, you will build and strengthen those neuro-pathways that see what’s good in your life. You will feel gratitude in places where before you felt only complaints. As you become more grateful, you will become more optimistic and hopeful. You will start seeing more opportunities for personal and professional growth. And it all starts with a little thanksgiving…Eric Karpinski The Happiness Coach