Invitation to gratitude

I’ve shared quite a bit recently about how great an effect my new gratitude practice is having on my life. I continue to be amazed at how much space this has created for long-needed shifts to happen, how much it has benefited my attitude and outlook, and how much more goodness I am noticing in my life all the time as I pay attention.

Every time I have adopted an intentional gratitude practice into my life, it has had surprisingly large benefits—beyond what would normally be expected for the amount of time and energy it takes. But the ease of doing the practice is probably why it tends to become so easy to take it for granted and gradually slip away from it.

I just spent time talking with my coach about all of the positive changes I’m seeing, and I think I’m finally convinced enough to make this an ongoing practice from now on, though.  I am also eager to invite others to try a gratitude practice of their own to try it out for their lives.

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Transformation: A miracle of gratitude

“As each day comes to us refreshed and anew, so does my gratitude renew itself daily. The breaking of the sun over the horizon is my grateful heart dawning upon a blessed world.” ~Terri Guillemets

I truly have so much in my life to be thankful for. The more I am paying attention to these things for which I am grateful, the more things I seem to find that merit gratitude. And the more I find, the more I think of gratitude throughout the day, which leads to noticing even more things for which to be grateful. It’s really a most lovely cycle.

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Two sides to gratitude

I have continued my practice of adding one thing each day for which I am proud of myself to my daily gratitude journal. I am amazed not only at what this small practice has done for my confidence and outlook on life, but also at how it has enhanced my overall feeling of gratitude in general.

It did not seem intuitively obvious to me that recognizing myself for things that I have done well should have any impact on my gratitude. In fact, I commented on this last week in a bit of puzzlement and surmised that it stemmed simply from feeling a sense of gratitude to myself for having done something well.

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Expressing gratitude to myself

As I continue making my gratitude lists each night, it’s a delight to see how often the “little” things in life are the things that spring to mind to be grateful for: the joy of watching new grass sprout where I’ve seeded, the extravagant colors of the fall leaves, the delight of a good cup of tea, a delicious meal, kind words from a co-worker, a snuggly cat, the satisfaction of having completed a dreaded task.

It’s so easy for me to fall into the trap of thinking that I need big things (like a winning lottery ticket) to make me happy when I’m actually surrounded every day by more than enough to wrap my world in joy, if I just take the time to notice. There are indeed so many things to be grateful for even in the toughest of days, and it is good to remind myself of this.

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When gratitude becomes a should

It’s now been six weeks that I have been completely my gratitude practice on a daily basis. I continue to notice how I am grateful for the little things more often during the course of my day and not just during my gratitude journaling time at night.

I am also noticing how often the idea of gratitude comes to mind during the day. I find myself thinking in terms what I can be grateful for and how I can remind myself of gratitude on a regular basis throughout the day. But I’m also noticing a downside to this.

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Gratitude for the little things

Over the last few weeks, I have been consistently practicing my gratitude journaling (writing down at least five things for which I am grateful that day) each night before I go to bed. It’s been five weeks now of daily recording of the things that I am grateful for from the day, and I am intrigued by what I am observing of my practice and it’s effect on me.

Although recording the things I’m grateful for at the end of the day works well  in the sense that it helps me reflect on the day from the perspective of gratitude, the timing of this tends to make it feel more like a chore most nights. It’s the one thing standing between me and sleep as I head to bed. I’m exhausted (still adjusting to the new sleep schedule), my mind is foggy, and trying to come up with a thoughtful, comprehensive list at that point often feels like more than my poor brain can do. And it seldom inspires much sense of gratitude in me at the moment that I am writing.

That all makes it sound like a practice that isn’t useful, doesn’t it? I have tended to think that myself in those moments when I’m keeping my eyes propped open just long enough to finish my list for the day. But that’s not the whole story.

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Grateful for sleep

I am still adjusting to a new schedule now that I am working full-time again. I’ve gotten pretty good at getting up early, which is an amazing thing for me. I’m not a morning person by nature. I’ve tried all kinds of tactics for many years to find ways to help myself get up earlier in the morning, and it’s never worked for more than a couple of days. By prioritizing my writing time for first thing in the morning, I have now managed to get up early (2.5 hours earlier than I am used to) for a full four weeks!

I am incredibly proud of myself for the commitment that I am showing to my writing life. I am also unbelievably tired because I am not doing a very good job at going to bed much earlier than I used to despite my new wake-up time. Obviously, my bedtime needs to shift to an earlier hour very soon if I want to continue to be able to keep this up.

However, I am learning to appreciate the importance of sleep in a whole new way from going through this time of relative sleep deprivation. I am acutely aware of how much my lack of sleep is affecting my moods, my thought patterns, my motivation, and how my body feels.

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